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REPRINTED ..... 1911, 1914 


MARCO POLO, the subject of this memoir, was born at Venice 
in the year 1 254. He was the son of Nicolo Polo, a Venetian 
of noble family, who was one of the partners in a trading 
house, engaged in business with Constantinople. In the year 
1260, this Nicolo Polo, in company with his junior partner, 
his brother Maffeo, set out across the Euxine on a trading 
venture to the Crimea. They prospered in their business, 
but were unable to return to their base, owing to the break 
ing out of a Tartar war on the road by which they had come. 
As they could not go back, they went forward, crossing the 
desert to Bokhara, where they stayed for three years. At 
the end of the third year (the fifth of their journey) they were 
advised to visit the Great Khan Kublai, the " Kubla Khan " 
of Coleridge s poem. A party of the Great Khan s envoys 
were about to return to Cathay, and the two brothers there 
fore joined the party, travelling forward, northward and 
northeastward," for a whole year, before they reached the 
Khan s Court in Cathay. The Khan received them kindly, 
and asked them many questions about life in Europe, especi 
ally about the emperors, the Pope, the Church, and " all 
that is done at Rome." He then sent them back to Europe 
on an embassy to the Pope, to ask His Holiness to send a 
hundred missionaries to convert the Cathaians to the Chris 
tian faith. He also asked for some of the holy oil from the 
lamp of the Holy Sepulchre. The return journey of the 
brothers (from Cathay to Acre) took three years. On their 
arrival at Acre the travellers discovered that the Pope was 
dead. They therefore decided to return home to Venice to 
wait until the new Pope should be elected. They arrived at 
Venice in 1269, to find that Nicolo s wife had died during her 
husband s absence. His son Marco, our traveller, was then 
fifteen years old. He had probably passed his childhood in 
the house of one of his uncles at Venice. 

Nicolo and Maffeo Polo remained at Venice for a couple of 
years, waiting for a Pope to be elected, but as there seemed to 


viii Introduction 

be no prospect of this happening, they determined to return 
to the Great Khan, to tell him how their mission had failed. 
They therefore set out again (in 1271) and Marco, now seven 
teen years old, went with them. At Acre they obtained a 
letter from a Papal Legate, stating how it came about that 
the message had not been delivered. They had already 
obtained some of the holy oil, so that they were free to pro 
ceed. They had not gone very far upon their journey when 
they were recalled to Acre by the above-mentioned Syrian 
Legate, who had just heard that he had been elected Pope. 
The new Pope did not send a hundred missionaries, as 
Kublai had asked, but he appointed instead two preaching 
friars, who accompanied the Polos as far as Armenia, where 
rumours of war frightened them into returning. The Polos 
journeyed on for three years and a half, and arrived at 
the Khan s court (at Shangtu, not far from Pekin) in the 
middle of 1275. The Khan received them "honourably and 
graciously," making much of Marco, " who was then a young 
gallant." In a little while, when Marco had learned the 
speech and customs of the : Tartars," the Khan employed 
him in public business, sending him as a visiting adminis 
trator to several wild and distant provinces. Marco noted 
carefully the strange customs of these provinces, and de 
lighted the Khan with his account of them. On one of these 
journeys Marco probably visited the southern states of India. 
After some seventeen years of honourable service with 
Kublai, the three Venetians became eager to return to Venice. 
They were rich men, and Kublai was growing old, and they 
knew that Kublai s death " might deprive them of that 
public assistance by which alone they could expect to sur 
mount the innumerable difficulties of so long a journey." 
But Kublai refused to allow them to leave the Court, and 
even " appeared hurt at the application." It chanced, how 
ever, that at this time, Arghun, Khan of Persia, had sent 
ambassadors to Kublai to obtain the hand of a maiden "from 
among the relatives of his deceased wife." The maiden, 
aged seventeen, and very beautiful, was about to accompany 
the ambassadors to Persia; but the ordinary overland routes 
to Persia were unsafe, owing to wars among the Tartars. It 
was necessary for her to travel to Persia by ship. The 
envoys begged Kublai that the three Venetians might come 
with them in the ships " as being persons well skilled in 
the practice of navigation." Kublai granted their request, 

Introduction ix 

though not very gladly. He fitted out & jplendid squadron 
of ships, and despatched the three Venetians with the Per 
sians, first granting them the golden tablet or safe-conduct, 
which would enable them to obtain supplies on the way. 
They sailed from a Chinese port about the beginning of 1292. 

The voyage to Persia occupied about two years, during 
which time the expedition lost six hundred men. The Khan 
of Persia was dead when they arrived; so the beautiful 
maiden was handed over to his son, who received her kindly. 
He gave the Venetians safe-conduct through Persia; indeed 
he sent them forward with troops of horse, without which, 
in those troublous days, they could never have crossed the 
country. As they rode on their way they heard that the 
great Khan Kublai, their old master, had died. They arrived 
safely at Venice some time in the year 1295. 

There are some curious tales of their arrival at home. It 
is said that they were not recognised by their relatives, and 
this is not strange, for they returned in shabby Tartar 
clothes, almost unable to speak their native tongue. It was 
not until they had ripped the seams of the shabby clothes, 
producing stores of jewels from the lining, that the relatives 
decided to acknowledge them. (This tale may be read as 
allegory by those who doubt its truth as history.) Marco 
Polo did not stay long among his relatives. Venice was at 
war with Genoa, and the Polo family, being rich, had been 
called upon to equip a galley, even before the travellers 
returned from Asia. Marco Polo sailed in command of this 
galley, in the fleet under Andrea Dandolo, which was de 
feated by the Genoese off Curzola on the jth September 
1296. Marco Polo was carried as a prisoner to Genoa, where 
he remained, in spite of efforts made to ransom him, for about 
three years, during which time he probably dictated his book 
in very bad French to one Rustician of Pisa, a fellow-prisoner. 
He returned to Venice during the year 1299, and probably 
married shortly afterwards. 

Little is known of his life after his return from prison. 
We know that he was nicknamed " II Milione " on account 
of his wonderful stories of Kublai s splendour; but as he was 
rich and famous the slighting nickname was probably partly 
a compliment. Colonel Yule, the great editor of Marco Polo, 
has discovered that he stood surety for a wine-smuggler, 
that he gave a copy of his book to a French noble, and that 
he sued a commission agent for the half profits on the sale of 

x Introduction 

some musk. It was at one time thought that he was the 
Marco Polo who failed (in 1302) to have his water-pipe in 
spected by the town plumber. This sin has now been laid 
upon another man of the same name, who " was ignorant 
of the order on that subject. JJ On the 9th of January, 1324, 
feeling himself to be growing daily feebler, he made his will, 
which is still preserved. He named as his trustees his wife 
Donata and his three daughters, to whom the bulk of his 
estate was left. He died soon after the execution of this will. 
He was buried in Venice without the door of the Church of 
San Lorenzo; but the exact site of the grave is unknown. 
No known authentic portrait of the man exists; but as in 
the case of Columbus, there are several fanciful portraits, of 
which the best dates from the seventeenth century. 

Marco Polo s book was not received with faith by his con 
temporaries. Travellers who see marvellous things, even in our 
own day (the name of Bruce will occur to everyone) are seldom 
believed by those who, having stayed at home, have all the 
consequences of their virtue. When Marco Polo came back 
from the East, a misty, unknown country, full of splendour 
and terrors, he could not tell the whole truth. He had to 
leave his tale half told lest he should lack believers. His 
book was less popular in the later Middle Ages than the 
fictions and plagiarisms of Sir John Mandeville. Marco 
Polo tells of what he saw; the compiler of Mandeville, when 
he does not steal openly from Pliny, Friar Odoric, and others, 
tells of what an ignorant person might expect to see, and 
would, in any case, like to read about, since it is always 
blessed to be confirmed in an opinion, however ill-grounded 
it may be. How little Marco Polo was credited may be 
judged from the fact that the map of Asia was not modified 
by his discoveries till fifty years after his death. 

His book is one of the great books of travel. Even now, 
after the lapse of six centuries, it remains the chief authority 
for parts of Central Asia, and of the vast Chinese Empire. 
Some of his wanderings are hard to follow; some of the 
places which he visited are hard to identify; but the labour 
of Colonel Yule has cleared up most of the difficulties, and 
confirmed most of the strange statements. To the geo 
grapher, to the historian, and to the student of Asiatic life, 
the book of Marco Polo will always be most valuable. To 
the general reader, the great charm of the book is its 

Introduction xi 

It is accounted a romantic thing to wander among 
strangers and to eat their bread by the camp-fires of the 
other half of the world. There is romance in doing thus, 
though the romance has been over-estimated by those whose 
sedentary lives have created in them a false taste for action. 
Marco Polo wandered among strangers; but it is open to 
anyone (with courage and the power of motion) to do the 
same. Wandering in itself is merely a form of self-indul 
gence. If it adds not to the stock of human knowledge, or 
if it gives not to others the imaginative possession of some 
part of the world, it is a pernicious habit. The accLuisition 
of knowledge, the accumulation of fact, is noble only in those 
few who have that alchemy which transmutes such clav 

J ___j^. | -** lfrinB * ii^fft<l* * r " l **> n<^i^ M| ^_____^^ai"*** rlnT * *** i*Tir~" " iinim >i,,m ny ^u^yi*>lH^^Ti**<r^M>> 11 ^* J 

to heavenly eterna^gold. It may be thought that many 
travellers have given their readers great imaginative posses 
sions; but the imaginative possession is not measured in 
miles and parasangs, nor do the people of that country write 
accounts of birds and beasts. It is only the wonderful 
traveller who sees a wonder, and only five travellers in the 
world s history have seen wonders. The others have seen 
birds and beasts, rivers and wastes, the earth and the (local) 
fulness thereof. The five travellers are Herodotus, Caspar, 
Melchior, Balthazar, and Marco Polo himself. The wonder 
of Marco Polo is this that _he created Asia for the European 

WHMHI^ ^^^^^-^n*&t&f*&* l *B*Vf*& m * * t *******^t*1 l ^^*** f ^*^** 


When Marco Polo went to the East, the whole of Central 
Asia, so full of splendour and magnificence, so noisy with 
nations and kings, was like a dream in men s minds. Euro 
peans touched only the fringe of the East. At Acre, at 
Byzantium, at the busy cities on the Euxine, the merchants 
of Europe bartered with the stranger for silks, and jewels and 
precious balms, brought over the desert at great cost, in 
caravans from the unknown. The popular conception of 
the East was taken from the Bible, from the tales of old 
Crusaders, and from the books of the merchants. All that 
men knew of the East was that it was mysterious, and that 
our Lord was born there. Marco Polo, almost the first 
European to see the East, saw her in all her wonder, more 
fully than any man has seen her since. His picture of the 
East is the picture which we all make in our minds when we 
repeat to ourselves those two strange words, " the East/ 
and give ourselves up to the image which that symbol evokes. 
It may be that the Western mind will turn to Marco Polo for 

xii Introduction 

a conception of Asia long after " Cathay has become an 
American colony. 

It is difficult to read Marco Polo as one reads historical 
facts. One reads him as one reads romance; as one would 
read, for instance, the " Eve of St. Mark," or the " Well at 
the World s End." The East of which he writes is the East 
of romance, not the East of the Anglo-Indian, with his Simla, 
his missions to Tibet, and Renter telegrams. In the East of 
romance there grows " the tree of the sun, or dry tree " (by 
which Marco Polo passed), a sort of landmark or milestone, 
at the end of the great desert. The apples of the sun and 
moon grow upon that tree. Darius and Alexander fought 
in its shade. Those are the significant facts about the tree 
according to Marco Polo. We moderns, who care little for 
any tree so soon as we can murmur its Latin name, have lost 
wonder in losing faith. 

The Middle Age, even as our own age is, was full of talk of 
the Earthly Paradise. It may be that we have progressed, 
in learning to talk of it as a social possibility, instead of as a 
geographical fact. We like to think that the old Venetians 
went eastward, on their famous journey, half believing that 
they would arrive there, just as Columbus (two centuries 
later) half expected to sight land where the golden blossoms 
burn upon the trees forever." They did not find the Earthly 
Paradise ; but they saw the splendours of Kublai, one of the 
mightiest of earthly kings. One feels the presence of 
Kublai all through the narrative, as the red wine, dropped 
into the water-cup, suffuses all, or as the string supports the 
jewels on a trinket. The imagination is only healthy when 
it broods upon the kingly and the saintly. In Kublai, the 
reader will find enough images of splendour to make glorious 
the temple of his mind. When we think of Marco Polo, it 
is of Kublai that we think; and, apart from the romantic 
wonder which surrounds him, he is a noble person, worth our 
contemplation. He is like a king in a romance. It was the 
task of a kingly nature to have created him as he appears in 
the book here. It makes us proud and reverent of the poetic 
gift, to reflect that this king, " the lord of lords," ruler of so 
many cities, so many gardens, so many fishpools, would be 
but a name, an image covered by the sands, had he not wel 
comed two dusty travellers, who came to him one morning 
from out of the unknown, after long wandering over the 
world. Perhaps when he bade them farewell the thought 

Introduction xiii 

occurred to him (as it occurred to that other king in the 
poem) that he might come to be remembered but by this 
one thing," when all his glories were fallen from him, and he 
lay silent, the gold mask upon his face, in the drowsy tomb, 
where the lamp, long kept alight, at last guttered, and died, 
and fell to dust. 


December 1907. 


THE elder Polos, when they left Constantinople in the year 
1260, had not planned to go far beyond the northern 
borders of the Euxine. They first landed at Soldaia, in the 
Crimea, then an important trading city. From Soldaia they 
journeyed in a northerly and east-northeasterly direction to 
Sara, or Sarra, a vast city on the Volga, where King Cam- 
buscan lived, and to Bolgara, or Bolghar, where they stayed 
for a year. Going south a short distance to Ucaca, another 
city on the Volga, they journeyed direct to the south-east, 
across the northern head of the Caspian, on the sixty days 
march to Bokhara, where they stayed for three years. From 
Bokhara they went with the Great Khan s people north 
ward to Otrar, and thence in a north-easterly direction to the 
Court of the Khan near Pekin. On their return journey, 
they arrived at the sea-coast at Layas, in Armenia. From 
Layas they went to Acre, and from Acre to Negropont in 
Roumania, and from Negropont to Venice, where they stayed 
for about two years. 

On the second journey to the East, with the young Marco 
Polo, they sailed direct from Venice to Acre towards the end 
of the year 1271. They made a short journey southward to 
Jerusalem, for the holy oil, and then returned to Acre for 
letters from the Papal Legate. Leaving Acre, they got as 
far as Layas, in Armenia, before they were recalled by the 
newly elected Pope. On setting out again, they returned to 
Layas, at that time a great city, where spices and cloth of 
.gold were sold, and from which merchants journeying to the 
East generally started. From Layas they pushed north 
ward into Turcomania, past Casaria and Sivas, to Arzingan, 
where the people wove " good buckrams." Passing Mount 
Ararat, where Noah s Ark was supposed to rest, they heard 
stories of the Baku oil-fields. From here they went to the 
south-eastward, following the course of the Tigris to Band as. 
From Bandas they seem to have made an unnecessary 
journey to the Persian Gulf. The book leads one to suppose 


Itinerary xv 

thai they travelled by way of Tauriz (in Persian Irak) Yezd, 
and Kerman, to the port of Ormuz, as though they intended 
to take ship there. They could, however, have progressed 
more swiftly had they followed the Tigris to Busrah, there 
taken ship upon the Gulf, and sailed by way of Keis or Kisi to 
Ormuz. After visiting Ormuz, they returned to Kerman by 
another road, and then pushed on, over the horrible salt 
desert of Kerman, through Khorassan to Balakshan. It is 
possible that their journey was broken at Balakshan, owing 
to the illness of Marco, who speaks of having at some time 
stayed nearly a year here to recover his health. On leaving 
Balakshan they proceeded through the high Pamirs to Kash- 
gar, thence south-eastward by way of Khotan, not yet buried 
under the sands, to the Gobi desert. The Gobi desert, like 
all deserts, had a bad name as being the abode of many 
evil spirits, which amuse travellers to their destruction. 1 
The Polos crossed the Gobi in the usual thirty days, halting 
each night by the brackish ponds which make the passage 
possible. After crossing the desert, they soon entered China. 
At Kan Chau, one of the first Chinese cities which they 
visited, they may have stayed for nearly a year, on account 
of "the state of their concerns," but this stay probably took 
place later, when they were in Kublai s service. They then 
crossed the province of Shen-si, into that of Shan -si, finally 
arriving at Kai-ping-fu, where Kublai had built his summer 
pleasure garden. 

On the return journey, the Polos set sail from the port of 
Zaitum, in the province of Fo-Kien. They hugged the 
Chinese coast (in order to avoid the Pratas and Pracel Reefs) 
and crossed the Gulf of Tong King to Champa in the south 
east of Cambodia. Leaving Champa, they may have made 
some stay at Borneo, but more probably they sailed direct to 
the island of Bintang, at the mouth of the Straits of Malacca, 
and to Sumatra, where the fleet was delayed for five months 
by the blowing of the contrary monsoon. The ships seem 
to have waited for the monsoon to change in a harbour on the 
north-east coast, in the kingdom of Sumatra. On getting, 
a fair wind, they passed by the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, 
and then shaped a course for Ceylon. They put across to 
the coast of Coromandel, and may perhaps have coasted as 
far to the northward upon the Madras coast as Masulipatam. 
On the Bombay side, they would seem to have hugged the 
coast as far as they could, as far perhaps as Surat, in the 

xvi Intinerary 

Gulf of Cambay; but it is just possible that the descriptions 
of these places were taken from the tales of pilots, and that 
his fleet put boldly out to avoid the coast pirates. Marco 
Polo tells us much about Aden, and about towns on the 
Arabian coasts; but the fleet probably never touched at 
them. All that is certainly known is that they arrived at 
Ormuz, in the Persian Gulf, and passed inland to Khorassan. 
On leaving Khorassan they journeyed overland, through 
Persia and Greater Armenia, until they came to Trebizonda 
on the Euxine Sea. Here they took ship, and sailed home 
to Venice, first touching at Constantinople and at Negro- 
pont. " And this was in the year 1 295 of Christ s Incarna 

J. M. 






JL. .. 

II. Of Armenia Minor Of the Port of Laiassus And of 

the Boundaries of the Province ... 30 

III. Of the Province called Turkomania, where are the 

Cities of Kogni, Kaisariah, and Sevasta, and of its 
Commerce ....... 32 

IV. Of Armenia Major, in which are the Cities of Arzingan, 

Argiron, and Darziz Of the Castle of Paipurth 
Of the Mountain where the Ark of Noah rested Of 
the Boundaries of the Province And of a remark 
able Fountain of Oil . . . . 34 

V. Of the Province of Zorzania and its Boundaries Of the 
Pass where Alexander the Great constructed the 
Gate of Iron And of the miraculous Circum 
stances attending a Fountain at Tenis . . 37 

VI. Of the Province of Mosul and its different Inhabitants 
Of the People named Kurds And of the Trade 
of this Country . . . . . . 41 

VII. Of the great City of Baldach or Bagadet, anciently 
called Babylon Of the Navigation from thence to 
Balsara, situated in what is termed the Sea of India, 
but properly the Persian Gulf And of the various 
Sciences studied in that City .... 42 

VIII. Concerning the Capture and Death of the Khalif of 
Baldach, and the miraculous Removal of a 
Mountain .... 44 

IX. Of the noble City of Tauris, in Irak, and of its Com 
mercial and other Inhabitants . . 47 

X. Of the Monastery of Saint Barsamo, in the Neighbour 
hood of Tauris ...... 49 

XI. Of the Province of Persia . . . . 50 

XII. Of the Names of the Eight Kingdoms that constitute 
the Province of Persia, and of the Breed of Horses 
and of Asses found therein . . . .51 
XIII. Of the City of Yasdi and its Manufactures, and of the 
Animals found in the Country between that place 
and Kierman ...... 55 

XIV. Of the Kingdom of Kierman, by the Ancients named 
Karmania Of its Fossil and Mineral Productions 
Its Manufactures Its Falcons And of a great 
Descent observed upon passing out of that 
Country ....... 50 



XV. Of the City of Kamandu, and District of Reobarle Of 
certain Birds found there Of a peculiar kind of 
Oxen And of the Karaunas, a Tribe of Robbers 58 
XVI. Of the City of Ormus, situated on an Island not far 
from the Main, in the Sea of India Of its Com 
mercial Importance And of the hot Wind that 
blows there ....... 

XVII. Of the Shipping employed at Ormus Of the Season 
in which the Fruits are produced And of the 
Manner of Living and Customs of the Inhabitants 

XVIII. Of the Country travelled over upon leaving Ormus, 
and returning to Kierman by a different Route; 
and of a Bitterness in the Bread occasioned by the 
Quality of the Water ..... 
XIX. Of the desert Country between Kierman and Kobiam, 
and of the bitter Quality of the Water 

XX. Of the Town of Kobiam, and its Manufactures . 

XXI. Of the Journey from Kobiam to the Province of Timo- 
chain on the Northern Confines of Persia And of 
a particular Species of Tree .... 

XXII. Of the Old Man of the Mountain Of his Palace and 
Gardens Of his Capture and his Death 

XXIII. Of a fertile Plain of six Days Journey, succeeded by a 

Desert of eight, to be passed in the Way to the City 
of Sapurgan Of the excellent Melons produced 
there And of the City of Balach 

XXIV. Of the Castle named Thaikan Of the Manners of the 

Inhabitants And of Salt-Hills 

XXV. Of the Town of Scassem, and of the Porcupines found 

XXVI. Of the Province of Balashan Of the Precious Stones 
found there and which become the Property of 
the King Of the Horses and the Falcons of the 
Country Of the salubrious Air of the Mountains 
And of the Dress with which the Women adorn 
their Persons ...... 

Of the Province of Basci lying South of the former 
Of the golden Ornaments worn by the Inhabitants 
in their Ears And of their Manners 


Of the Province of Kesmur situated towards the south 
east Of its Inhabitants who are skilled in Magic 
Oi their Communication with the Indian Sea 
And of a Class of Hermits, their Mode of Life, and 
extraordinary Abstinence .... 

XXIX. Of the Province of Vokhan Of an Ascent for three 

Days, leading to the Summit of a high Mountain 

f a peculiar Breed of Sheep found there Of the 

Effect of the great Elevation upon Fires And of 

the Savage Life of the Inhabitants 

XXX. Of the City of Kashcar, and of the Commerce of its 
Inhabitants ....... 

XXXI. Of the City of Samarcan, and of the Miraculous Column 

in the Church of St. John the Baptist 

XXXII. Of the Province of Karkan, the Inhabitants of which 
are troubled with swollen Legs and with Goitres 
XXXIII. Of the City of Kptan, which is abundantly supplied 
with all the Necessaries of Life 









Contents 3 


XXXIV. Of the Province of Peyn Of the Chalcedonies and 
Jasper found in its River And of a peculiar 
Custom with regard to Marriages ... 97 

XXXV. Of the Province of Charchan Of the kinds of Stone 
found in its Rivers And of the Necessity the 
Inhabitants are under, of flying to the Desert on 
the approach of the Armies of the Tartars . . 98 

XXXVI. Of the Town of Lop Of the Desert in its Vicinity- 
And of the strange Noises heard by those who pass 
over the latter . . . . . -99 

XXXVII. Of the Province of Tanguth Of the City of Sachion 
Of the Custom observed there upon the Birth of a 
Male Child And of the Ceremony of burning the 
Bodies of the Dead. . . . . . 101 

XXXVIII. Of the District of Kamul, and of some peculiar Customs 

respecting the Entertainment of Strangers . 106 

XXXIX Of the City of Chinchitalas 108 

XL. Of the District of Succuir, where the Rhubarb is pro 
duced, and from whence it is carried to all parts of 
the World . . . . . . .no 

XLI. Of the City of Kampion, the principal one of the Pro 
vince of Tanguth Of the nature of their Idols, and 
of the Mode of Life of those amongst the Idolaters 
who are devoted to the services of Religion Of 
the Almanac they make use of And the Customs 
of the other Inhabitants with regard to Marriage 111 
XLII. Of the City of Ezina Of the kinds of Cattle and Birds 
found there And of a Desert extending forty 
Days Journey towards the North . . .114 
XLIII. Of the City of Karakoran, the first in which the 

Tartars fixed their Residence . . . .115 

XLIV. Of the Origin of the Kingdom of the Tartars Of the 
Quarter from whence they came And of their 
former Subjection to Un-khan, a Prince of the 
North, called also Prester John . . .116 
XLV. Concerning Chingis- Khan, first Emperor of the Tartars, 
and his Warfare with Un-khan, whom he over 
threw, and of whose Kingdom he possessed 
himself . . . . . . .118 

XLVI. Of six successive Emperors of the Tartars, and of the 
Ceremonies that take place when they are carried 
for Interment to the Mountain of Altai . . iao 
XLVII. Of the Wandering Life of the TartarsOf their 
Domestic Manners, their Food, and the Virtue and 
useful Qualities of their Women . . .123 
XLVIII. Of the Celestial and Terrestrial Deities of the Tartars, 
and of their Modes of Worship Of their Dress, 
Arms, Courage in Battle, Patience under Priva 
tions, and Obedience to their Leaders . . 126 
XLIX. Of the Tartar Armies, and the manner in which they 
are constituted Of their Order of Marching Of 
their Provisions And of their Mode of attacking 
the Enemy ....... 128 

L. Of the Rules of J ustice observed by these People And 
of an imaginary Kind of Marriage contracted 
between the deceased Children of different 
Families . . . . . . -13* 



LI. Of the Plain of Bargu near Kara-koran Of the 
Customs of its Inhabitants Of the Ocean, at the 
Distance of forty Days Journey from thence^ 
Of the Falcons produced in the Country on its 
Borders And of the Bearings of the Northern 
Constellation to an Observer in those Parts . 133 

LII. Of the Kingdom of Erginul, adjoining to that of Kam- 
pion, and of the City of Singui Of a Species of 
Oxen covered with extremely fine Hair Of the 
Form of the Animal that yields the Musk, and the 
Mode of taking it And of the Customs of the 
Inhabitants of that Country, and the Beauty of 
the Women ....... 135 

LIII. Of the Province of Egrigaia, and of the City of Kalacha 
Of the Manners of its Inhabitants And of the 
Camelots manufactured there . . . .139 

LIV. Of the Province of Tenduk, governed by Princes of the 
Race of Prester John, and chiefly inhabited by 
Christians Of the Ordination of their Priests 
And of a Tribe of People called Argon, the most 
personable and the best-informed of any in these 
Countries ..... .140 

LV. Of the Seat of Government of the Princes of the Family 
of Prester John, called Gog and Magog Of the 
Manners of its Inhabitants Of their Manufacture 
of Silk And of the Mines of Silver worked there 141 

LVI. Of the City of Changanor Of different Species of 
Cranes And of Partridges and Quails bred in 
that Part by the Orders of the Grand Khan . 143 

LVII, Of the Grand Khan s beautiful Palace in the City of 
Shandu Of his Stud of White Brood-Mares, 
with whose Milk he performs an Annual Sacrifice 
Of the wonderful Operations of the Astrologers 
on occasions of Bad Weather Of the Ceremonies 
practised by them in the Hall of the Royal Palace 
And of two Descriptions of Religious Mendi 
cants, with their Modes of Living . . .145 


I. Oi the admirable Deeds of Kublai-Kaan, the Emperor 
now reigning Of the Battle he fought with 
Nay an, his Uncle, and of the Victory he obtained 152 
11. Of the Return of the Grand Khan to the City of Kan- 
balu after his Victory Of the Honour he confers 
on the Christians, the Jews, the Mahometans, and 
the Idolaters, at their respective Festivals And 
the Reason he assigns for his not becoming a 
Christian . . . . . . .158 

III. Of the kind of Rewards granted to those who conduct 

themselves well in Fight, and of the Golden 
Tablets which they receive . . . .161 

IV. Of the Figure and Stature of the Grand Khan Of 

his four principal Wives And of the annual 
Selection of Young W T omen for him in the Pro 
vince of Ungut . . . . . .162 



V. Of the number of the Grand Khan s Sons by his four 
Wives, whom he makes Kings of different Pro 
vinces, and of Chingis his First-born Also of the 
Sons by his Concubines, whom he creates Lords 

VI. Of the great and admirable Palace of the Grand Khan, 
near to the City of Kanbalu .... 

VII. Of the new City of Tai-du, built near to that of Kanbalu 
Of a Rule observed respecting the Entertain 
ment of Ambassadors And of the nightly Police 
of the City ....... 

VIII. Of the treasonable Practices employed to cause the 
City of Kanbalu to rebel, and of the Apprehension 
and Punishment of those concerned 

IX. Of the Personal Guard of the Grand Khan 
X. Of the Style in which the Grand Khan holds his Public 
Courts, and sits at Table with all his Nobles Of 
the Manner in which the Drinking Vessels of Gold 
and Silver, filled with the Milk of Mares and 
Camels, are disposed in the Hall And of the 
Ceremony that takes place when he drinks 

XI. Of the Festival that is kept throughout the Dominions 
of the Grand Khan on the Twenty-eighth of 
September, being the Anniversary of his Nativity 
XII. Of the White Feast, held on the First Day of the 
Month of February, being the Commencement of 
their Year Of the Number of Presents then 
brought And of the Ceremonies that take place 
at a Table whereon is inscribed the Name of the 
Grand Khan ....... 

XIII. Of the Quantity of Game taken and sent to the 
Court, during the Winter Months 

XIV. Of Leopards and Lynxes used for hunting Deer Of 
Lions habituated to the Chase of various Animals 
And of Eagles taught to seize Wolves 
XV. Of two Brothers who are principal Officers of the 
Chase to the Grand Khan , 

XVI. Of the Grand Khan s proceeding to the Chase, with 
his Gerfalcons and Hawks Of his Falconers 
And of his Tents ...... 

XVII. Of the Multitude of Persons who continually resort to 
and depart from the City of Kanbalu And of 
the Commerce of the Place .... 

XVIII. Of the kind of Paper Money issued by the Grand Khan, 
and made to pass current throughout his 
Dominions ....... 

XIX. Of the Council of Twelve great Officers appointed for 
the Affairs of the Army, and of Twelve others, for 
the general Concerns of the Empire . 

XX. Of the Places established on all the great Roads for 
supplying Post-Horses Of the Couriers on Foot 
And of the Mode in which the Expense is 
defrayed ....... 

XXI. Of the Relief afforded by the Grand Khan to all the 
Provinces of his Empire, in Times of Dearth or 
Mortality of Cattle 

XXII. Of the Trees which he causes to be planted at the 
Sides of the Roads, and of the Order in which they 
are kept 







20 1 


2I 4 




































XXIII. Of the kind of Wine made in the Province of Cathay 

And of the Stones used there for burning in the 
manner of Charcoal . . . . .214 

XXIV. Of the great and admirable Liberality exercised by the 

Grand Khan towards the Poor of Kanbalu, and 
other Persons who apply for Relief at his Court 215 
XXV. Of the Astrologers of the City of Kanbalu . .217 

XXVI. Of the Religion of the Tartars Of the Opinions they 
hold respecting the Soul And of some of their 
Customs ....... 

XXVII. Of the River named Pulisangan, and of the Bridge over 

IT, ..... 

Of the City of Gouza 

Of the Kingdom of Ta-in-fu 

Of the City of Pi-an-fu 

Of the Fortress of Thaigin or Tai-gin 

Of the very large and noble River called the Kara 

moran .... 

Of the City of Ka-chan-fu 
Of the City of Ken-zan-fu 
Of the Boundaries of Cathay and Manji 
Of the Province of Sin- din- fu, and of the great River * 

Of the Province of Thebeth ..... 
Of the Province of Kain-du ..... 
Of the great Province of Karaian, and of Yachi its 

principal City ...... 

Of the Province named Karazan .... 

Of the Province of Kardandan and the City of Vochang 
Of the Manner in which the Grand Khan effected the 

Conquest of the Kingdom of Mien and Bangala 
Of an uninhabited Region, and of the Kingdom of Mien 
Of the City of Mien, and of a grand Sepulchre of its 

King ..... 

Of the Province of Bangala 

Of the Province of Kangigu 

Of the Province of Amu . 

Of Tholornan .... 

Of the Cities of Chintigui, Sidin-f u, Gin-gui, and Pazan-fu 264 
Of the City of Chan-glu ..... 267 

Of the City of Chan-gli ...... 268 

Of the City of Tudin-fu . . . . .268 

Of the City of Singui-matu . . . . .270 

Of the great River called the Kara-moran, and of the 

Cities of Koi-gan-zu and Kuan-zu . . .272 
Of the most noble Province of Manji, and of the Manner 

in which it was subdued by the Grand Khan 273 

Of the City of Koi-gan-zu . . . . -277 
Of the Town of Pau-ghin ..... 277 

Of the City of Kain . ... 278 

Of the Cities of Tin-gui and Chin-gui . . .278 
Of the City of Yan-gui, of which Marco Polo held the 

Government ....... 279 

Of the Province of Nan-ghin . . 280 

Of the City of Sa-yan-fu, that was taken by the means 

of Nicolo and Maffeo Polo . . . .280 

Of the City of Sin-gui and of the very great River 

Kiang ....... 283 

Of the City of Kayn-gui ... 285 

Of the City of Chan-ghian-fu . . . 286 

























Of the City of Tin-gui-gui . 

Of the Cities of Sin-gui and Va-giu 

Of the noble and magnificent City of Kin-sai 

Of the Revenues of the Grand Khan 

Of the City of Ta-pin-zu .... 

Of the City of Uguiu . ... 

Of the Cities of Gen-gui, Zen-gian, and Gie-za . 

Of the Kingdom or Viceroyalty of Kon-cha, and 

capital City named Fu-giu 

Of the City of Kue-lin-fu .... 
Of the City of Un-guen ..... 
Of the City of Kan-giu ..... 
Of the City and Port of Zai-tun, and the City of Tin- 





gui 317 



I. Of India, distinguished into the Greater, Lesser, and 
Middle Of the Manners and Customs of its 
Inhabitants Of many remarkable and extra 
ordinary Things to be observed there ; and, in the 
first place, of the kind of Vessels employed in 
Navigation ....... 

II. Of the Island of Zipangu ..... 

III. Of the nature of the Idols worshipped in Zipangu, and 

of the People being addicted to eating Human 

IT J vT-SI 1 * 

IV. Of the Sea of Chin, between this Island and the Pro 

vince of Manji ...... 

V. Of the Gulf of Keinan, and of its Rivers 
VI. Of the Country of Ziamba, of the King of that Country, 
and of his becoming tributary to the Grand Khan 

VII. Of the Island of Java 

VIII. Of the Islands of Sondur and Kondur, and of the 

Country of Lochac ..... 

IX. Of the Island of Pentan, and of the Kingdom of 

Malaiur . . . . . 

X. Of the Island of Java Minor ..... 
XI. Of the Kingdom of Felech, in the Island of Java Minor 
XII. Of the Second Kingdom, named Basman 

XIII. Of the Third Kingdom, named Samara 

XIV. Of the Fourth Kingdom, named Dragoian 
XV. Of the Fifth Kingdom, named Lambri 

XVI. Of the Sixth Kingdom, named Fanfur, where Meal is 

procured from a certain Tree 

XVII. Of the Island of Nocueran 
XVIII. Of the Island of Angaman 

XIX. Of the Island of Zeilan . 

XX. Of the Province of Maabar 

XXI. Of the Kingdom of Murphili or Monsul 

XXII. Of the Province of Lac, Loac, or Lar 

XXIII. Of the Island of Zeilan . 

XXIV. Of the City of Kael 
XXV. Of the Kingdom of Koulam 

XXVI. Of Komari . 
XXVII. Of the Kingdom of Dely 
XXVIII. Of Malabar . 
XXIX. Of the Kingdom of Guzzerat 
XXX. Of the Kingdom of Kan an 
























































Of the Kingdom of Kambaia ..... 

Of the Kingdom of Servenath .... 

Of the Kingdom of Kesmacoran .... 
Of the Islands of Males and of Females . 
Of the Island of Soccotera ..... 
Of the great Island of Madagascar .... 
Of the Island of Zenzibar ..... 
Of the multitude of Islands in the Indian Sea . 
Of the Second or Middle India, named Abascia (or 


Of the Province of Aden 
Of the City of Escier 
Of th3 City of Dulfar 
Of the City of Kalayati 
Of Ormus .... 
Of those Countries which are termed the Region of 

Darkness ....... 

Of the Province of Russia ..... 

Of Great Turkey ....... 

What the Grand Khan said of the Injuries done to him 

by Kaidu ....... 

Of the Daughter of King Kaidu, how strong and valiant 

she was ....... 

How Abaga sent Argon his Son with an Army 
How Argon succeeded his Father in the Sovereignty 
How Acornat went with his Host to fight Argon 
How Argon held Council with his Barons before en 
countering Acomat 
How the Barons replied to Argon 
How Argon sent his Messengers to Acomat 
Acomat s Reply to the Message of Argon 
The Battle between Argon and Acomat . 
How Argon was liberated 
How Argon recovered the Sovereignty 
How Argon caused his Uncle Acomat to be put to 

death ........ 

The Death of Argon ...... 

How Quiacatu seized upon the Sovereignty after the 

Death of Argon ...... 

How Baidu seized upon the Sovereignty after the 

Death of Quiacatu ...... 

Of the Lords of the Tartars of the West . 

Of the War between Alau and Berca, and the Battle 

they fought ....... 

How Berca and his Host went to meet Alau 

Alau s Address to his Men ..... 

Of the great Battle between Alau and Berca 
How Totamangu was Lord of the Tartars of the West 
How Toctai sent for Nogai to Court 
How Toctai proceeded against Nogai 


























YE emperors,, kings, dukes, marquises, earls, and knights, and 
all other people desirous of knowing the diversities of the races 
of mankind, as well as the diversities of kingdoms, provinces, 
and regions of all parts of the East, read through this book, and 
ye will find in it the greatest and most marvellous charac 
teristics of the peoples especially of Armenia, Persia, India, and 
Tartary, as they are severally related in the present work by 
Marco Polo, a wise and learned citizen of Venice, who states 
distinctly what things he saw and what things he heard from 
others. For this book will be a truthful one. It must be 
known, then, that from the creation of Adam to the present 
day, no man, whether Pagan, or Saracen, or Christian, or 
other, of whatever progeny or generation he may have been, 
ever saw or inquired into so many and such great things as 
Marco Polo above mentioned. Who, wishing in his secret 
thoughts that the things he had seen and heard should be made 
public by the present work, for the benefit of those who could 
not see them with their own eyes, he himself being in the year 
of our Lord 1295 2 in prison at Genoa, caused the things which 
are contained in the present work to be written by master 
Rustigielo, a citizen of Pisa, who was with him in the same 
prison at Genoa; and he divided it into three parts. 

1 This prologue, omitted by Marsden, is here translated from the Latin 
text published by the French Geographical Society. It is found in the 
early French version published by the same society, and in some of the 
Italian manuscripts; but is only given in an abridged form in Boni s 
Italian text. 

2 The early French translation gives the date 1298, with which the 
Italian prologues seem to agree. 


io Travels of Marco Polo 


i. It should be known to the reader that, at the time when 
Baldwin II. was emperor of Constantinople/ where a magis 
trate representing the doge of Venice then resided, 2 and in 
the year of our Lord 1250^ Nicolo Polo, the father of the said 
Marco, and Maffeo, the brother of Nicolo, respectable and weli- 

1 Baldwin II. count of Flanders, and cousin of Louis IX. king of France, 
who reigned from 1237 to 1261, was the last of the Latin emperors of 

2 The passage which in Ramusio s text is, " dove all* hora soleva stare 
un podesta di Venetia, per nome di messer lo Dose ; " and upon which he 
has written a particular dissertation, has nothing corresponding to it in 
the Latii or French versions, or in the Italian text published by Boni. 
The city of Constantinople and the Greek provinces had been conquered, 
in 1204, by the joint arms of the French and the Venetians, the latter of 
whom were commanded by their doge, the illustrious Henry Dandolo, in 
person. Upon the division of the territory and the immense spoil that 
fell into their possession, a larger share (including the celebrated bronze 
horses of Lysippus) was assigned to the republic than to the emperor 
elected on the occasion, and the aged doge, who had himself declined the 
imperial title, but accepted that of Prince of Romania, maintained an 
independent jurisdiction over three parts out of eight of the city, with a 
separate tribunal of justice, and ended his days at the head of an army 
that besieged Adrianople. It is doubtful whether any of his successors 
in the high office of chief of the republic made the imperial city their 
place of residence. " The doge, a slave of state," says Gibbon, " was 
seldom permitted to depart from the helm of the republic; but his place 
was supplied by the bail, or regent, who exercised a supreme jurisdiction 
over the colony of Venetians." Such was the podesta, sometimes termed 
bailo, and sometimes despoto, whose cotemporary government is here 
spoken of, and whose political importance in the, then degraded state of 
the empire was little inferior to that of Baldwin; whilst in the eyes of 
the Polo family, as Venetian citizens, it was probably much greater. The 
name of the person who exercised the functions at the time of their arrival, 
is said, in the Sorenzo manuscript, to have been Misier Ponte de Veniexia, 
and, in 1261, when the empire, or rather the city, was reconquered from 
the Latins, the podesta was Marco Gradenigo. 

3 There are strong grounds, Marsden says, for believing that this date 
of 1250, although found in all the editions, is incorrect. In the manu 
script, of which there are copies in the British Museum and Berlin 
libraries, the commencement of the voyage is placed in 1252, and some 
of the events related in the sequel render it evident that the departure, 
at least, of our travellers from Constantinople, must have been some 
years later than the middle of the century, and probably not sooner than 
1255. How long they were detained in that city is not stated; but, 
upon any calculation of the period of their arrival or departure, it is sur 
prising that Grynams, the editor of the Basle and Paris edition of 1532, 
and after him the learned Miiller and Bergeron, should, notwithstanding 
the anachronism, introduce into their texts the date of 1269, which was 
eight years after the expulsion of the emperor Baldwin, and was, in fact, 
the year in which they returned to Syria from their first Tartarian 

The Brothers Polo 1 1 

informed men, embarked in a ship of their own, with a rich 
and varied cargo of merchandise, and reached Constantinople 
in safety. After mature deliberation on the subject of their 
proceedings, it was determined, as the measure most likely to 
improve their trading capital, that they should prosecute their 
voyage into the Euxine or Black Sea. 1 With this view they 
made purchases of many fine and costly jewels, and taking 
their departure from Constantinople, navigated that sea to a 
port named Soldaia, 2 from whence they travelled on horse 
back many days until they reached the court of a powerful 
chief of the Western Tartars, named Barka, 3 who dwelt in 
the cities of Bolgara and Assara, 4 and had the reputation of 
being one of the most liberal and civilized princes hitherto 
known amongst the tribes of Tartary. He expressed much 
satisfaction at the arrival of these travellers, and received 
them with marks of distinction. In return for which courtesy, 
when they had laid before him the jewels they brought with 
them, and perceived that their beauty pleased him, they pre 
sented them for his acceptance. The liberality of this conduct 

1 The prosperity, riches, and political importance of the state of Venice 
having arisen entirely from its commerce, the profession of a merchant 
was there held in the highest degree of estimation, and its nobles were 
amongst the most enterprising of its adventurers in foreign trade. To 
this illustrious state might have been applied the proud character drawn 
by Isaiah of ancient Tyre, which he describes as " the crowning city, 
whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of 
the earth." 

2 Soldaia was the name given in the middle ages to tne place (the 
Tauro-Scythian port of the ancients) now called Sudak, situated near 
the southern extremity of the Crimea or Tauric Chersonesus. It is de 
scribed in these words: " About the midst of the said province towards 
the south, as it were upon a sharp angle or point, standeth a city called 
Soldaia, directly against Synopolis. And there doe all the Turkic 
merchants, which traffique into the north countries, in their journey 
outward, arrive, and as they return homeward also from Russia, and 
the said northern regions, into Turkic." Purchas, vol. iii. p. 2. 

3 This Tartar prince is usually named Bereke, the successor, and said 
to be the brother, of Batu, the son of Tushi, eldest son of Jengiz-khan; 
who inherited, as his portion of the dominions of his grandfather (al 
though not in full sovereignty), the western countries of Kapchak or 
Kipchak, Allan, Russ, and Bulgar, and died in 1256. 

* The Bolgar, Bulgar, or Bulghar, here spoken of, is the name of a 
town and an extensive district in Tartary, lying to the eastward of the 
Wolga, and now inhabited by the Bashkirs, sometimes distinguished 
from the Bulgaria on the Danube, by the appellation of the Greater 
Bulgaria. Assara is the city of Sarai (with the definitive article pre 
fixed), situated on the eastern arm of the Wolga, or Achtuba. " The 
Astrachan mentioned by Balducci Pegoletti was not on the same spot 
where that town stands now, but the ancient Astrachan was demolished, 
together with Saray, by the emperor Timur, in the winter of 1395. The 
old town of Saray was pretty near the ancient Astrachan." Forster. 

i 2 Travels ot Marco Polo 

on the part of the two brothers struck him with admiration; 
and being unwilling that they should surpass him in generosity, 
he not only directed double the value of the jewels to be paid 
to them, but made them in addition several rich presents. 

The brothers having resided a year in the dominions of this 
prince, they became desirous of revisiting their native country, 
but were impeded by the sudden breaking out of a war be 
tween him and another chief, named Alau, who ruled over the 
Eastern Tartars. 1 In a fierce and very sanguinary battle 
that ensued between their respective armies, Alau was 
victorious, in consequence of which, the roads being rendered 
unsafe for travellers, the brothers could not attempt to return 
by the way they came; and it was recommended to them, as 
the only practicable mode of reaching Constantinople, to pro 
ceed in an easterly direction,, by an unfrequented route, so as 
to skirt the limits of Barka s territories. Accordingly they 
made their way to a town named Oukaka, 2 situated on the 
confines of the kingdom of the Western Tartars. Leaving 
that place, and advancing still further, they crossed the Tigris, 3 
one of the four rivers of Paradise, and came to a desert, the 
extent of which was seventeen days journey, wherein they 

1 These Eastern Tartars, as they are relatively termed, but whose 
country extended no further to the east than the provinces of Persia and 
Khorasan, were so named to distinguish them from the Western (cr 
more properly, North-Western) Tartars mentioned in the preceding 
note, who occupied the countries in the neighbourhood of the Wolga, 
and from thence to the confines, or beyond the confines, of Europe. 
Their chief, here named Ala-u or Hala-u, is the celebrated Hulagu, the 
son of Tuli or Tulvvi, and equally with Batu, Mangu, and Kublai (the 
latter of whom were his brothers), the grandson of Jengiz-khan. Being 
appointed by his elder brother Mangu, to command in the southern pro 
vinces of the empire, he left Kara-korum, a short time before the visit of 
Rubruquis to that Tartar capital, and in the year 1255 crossed the Jihun 
or Oxus, with a large army. In the following year, he destroyed the 
race or sect of the Ismaelians, called also Malahidet, of whom a parti 
cular account will be given hereafter, and then turned his arms against 
the city of Baghdad, which he sacked in 1258; putting to death Mos- 
tasem Billah, the last of the Abbassite khalifs. Upon the death of 
Mangu, in 1259, Hulagu became effectively the sovereign of Persian and 
Babylonian Irak, together with Khorasan; yet he still continued to 
profess a nominal and respectful allegiance to his brother Kublai, who 
was acknowledged as the head of the Moghul family, and reigned in 
China. His death took place in 1265, at Tauris or Tabriz, his capital. 

2 There can be little doubt of this being the Okak of Abulfeda; from 
hence the route of our travellers may be presumed to have lain towards 
the town of Jaik, on the river of that name, and afterwards, in a south 
easterly direction, to the Sihun. 

8 The great river crossed by our travellers, and which from its magni 
tude they might think entitled to rank as one of the rivers of Paradise, 
was evidently the Sihun, otherwise narr.ed the Sirr. 

The Brothers at Bokhara i 3 

found neither town, castle, nor any substantial building, but 
only Tartars with their herds, dwelling in tents on the plain. 1 
Having passed this tract they arrived at length at a well-built 
city called Bokhara, 2 in a province of that name, belonging to 
the dominions of Persia, and the noblest city of that kingdom, 
but governed by a prince whose name was Barak. 3 Here, 
from inability to proceed further, they remained three years. 
It happened while these brothers were in Bokhara, that a 
person of consequence and gifted with eminent talents made 
his appearance there. He was proceeding as ambassador from 
Alau before mentioned, to the grand khan, supreme chief of 
all the Tartars, named Kublai , 4 whose residence was at the 
extremity of the continent, in a direction between north 
east and east. 5 Not having ever before had an opportunity, 

1 The desert here mentioned is that of Karak, in the vicinity of the 
Sihun or Sirr, which travellers from the north must unavoidably pass, 
in order to arrive at Bokhara. 

a This celebrated city, the name of which could not be easily mis 
taken, and has not been disguised by the transcribers, serves materially 
to establish the general direction of their course; for, having proceeded 
northwards from the Crimea, they could not have reached Bokhara 
otherwise than by crossing the several rivers with discharge themselves 
into the upper or northern part of the Caspian. 

3 This appears to be the prince whom Petis de la Croix names Berrac 
Can, and D^Herbelot Barak- khan, great-grandson of Jagatai , the second 
son of Jengiz-khan, who inherited Transoxiana, or the region now pos 
sessed by the Usbek Tartars. Barak is said, by the latter, to have 
attempted to wrest the kingdom of Khorasan from the dominion of 
Abaka the son of Hulagu; but this must be a mistake, as the death of 
Barak is placed by the generality of historians in 1260 (by D Herbelot, 
unaccountably, in 1240), and that of Hulagu in 1265. 

* Mangu appointed Kublai his viceroy in China, and gave to Hulagu 
the government of such of the southern provinces of Asia as he could 
reduce to obedience. Returning himself to China in 1258, he died at 
the siege of Ho-cheu, in the province of Se-chuen, in the following year. 
Kublai was at this time in the province of Hu-kuang, and persevered in 
his efforts to render himself master of Vu-chang-fu, its capital, until he 
was called away to suppress a revolt excited by his younger brother 
Artigbuga, whom Mangu had left as his lieutenant at Kara-korum. 
Contenting himself with exacting from the emperor of the Song, who 
ruled over Manji, or southern China, the payment of an annual tribute, 
he retreated to the northward, and hi 1260 was proclaimed grand khan, 
at Shang-tu, which from that time became his summer residence. We 
are told, however, that he had hesitated for some time to assume the 
title, and did not declare his acquiescence until the arrival of an envoy 
sent by his brother Hulagu (by some supposed to have been the elder), 
who urged him to accept the empire. This envoy we may reasonably 
presume to have been the person who arrived at Bokhara, in his way 
from Persia to Khatai , during the time that Nicolo and Maffeo Polo 
were detained in that city; and the period is thereby ascertained to 
have been about the year 1258. 

6 This vague designation of the place of residence of the grand khan 
must be understood as applying to Khatai, or northern China, from 

14 Travels of Marco Polo 

although he wished it, of seeing any natives of Italy, he was 
gratified in a high degree at meeting and conversing with these 
brothers, who had now become proficients in the Tartar lan 
guage; and after associating with them for several days, and 
finding their manners agreeable to him, he proposed to them 
that they should accompany him to the presence of the great 
khan, who would be pleased by their appearance at his court, 
which had not hitherto been visited by any person from their 
country; adding assurances that they would be honourably 
received, and recompensed with many gifts. Convinced as 
they were that their endeavours to return homeward would 
expose them to the most imminent risks, they agreed to this 
proposal, and recommending themselves to the protection of 
the Almighty, they set out on their journey in the suite of the 
ambassador, attended by several Christian servants whom they 
had brought with them from Venice. The course they took 
at first was between the north-east and north, and an entire 
year was consumed before they were enabled to reach the 
imperial residence, in consequence of the extraordinary delays 
occasioned by the snows and the swelling of the rivers, which 
obliged them to halt until the former had melted and the 
floods had subsided. Many things worthy of admiration were 
observed by them in the progress of their journey, but which 
are here omitted, as they will be described by Marco Polo, in 
the sequel of the book. 

2. Being introduced to the presence of the grand khan, 
Kublai, the travellers were received by him with the conde 
scension and affability that belonged to his character, and as 
they were the first Latins who had made their appearance in 
that country, they were entertained with feasts and honoured 
with other marks of distinction. Entering graciously into 
conversation with them, he made earnest inquiries on the 
subject of the western parts of the world, of the emperor of 
the Romans, 1 and of other Christian kings and princes. He 
wished to be informed of their relative consequence, the extent 
of their possessions, the manner in which justice was ad 
ministered in their several kingdoms and principalities, how 

which, or the adjoining district of Karchin, where Shang-tu was situated, 
he was rarely absent. 

1 By the emperor of the Romans is meant the emperor, whether Greek 
or Roman, who reigned at Constantinople. Those countries which now 
form the dominion of the Turks in Europe and Asia Minor, are vaguely 
designated, amongst the more Eastern people, by the name of Rum, and 
their inhabitants by that of Rumi. 

The Grand Khan Kublai 15 

they conducted themselves in warfare, and above all he ques 
tioned them particularly respecting the pope, the affairs of the 
church, and the religious worship and doctrine of the Chris 
tians. Being well instructed and discreet men, they gave 
appropriate answers upon all these points, and as they were 
perfectly acquainted with the Tartar (Moghul) language, they 
expressed themselves always in becoming terms; insomuch 
that the grand khan, holding them in high estimation, fre 
quently commanded their attendance. 

When he had obtained all the information that the two 
brothers communicated with so much good sense, he expressed 
himself well satisfied, and having formed in his mind the de 
sign of employing them as his ambassadors to the pope, after 
consulting with his ministers on the subject, he proposed to 
them, with many kind entreaties, that they should accompany 
one of his officers, named Khogatal, on a mission to the see of 
Rome. His object, he told them, was to make a request to 
his holiness that he would send to him a hundred men of 
learning, thoroughly acquainted with the principles of the 
Christian religion, as well as with the seven arts, and qualified 
to prove to the learned of his dominions by just and fair argu 
ment, that the faith professed by Christians is superior to, 
and founded upon more evident truth than, any other; that 
the gods of the Tartars and the idols worshipped in their 
houses were only evil spirits, and that they and the people of 
the East in general were under an error in reverencing them 
as divinities. He moreover signified his pleasure that upon 
their return they should bring with them, from Jerusalem, 
some of the holy oil from the lamp which is kept burning over 
the sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he professed to 
hold in veneration and to consider as the true God. 1 Having 

1 We may reasonably suspect (without entertaining any doubt of the 
embassy itself) that the expressions here put into the mouth of the 
emperor, both as they regard the worship of the Tartars and the divinity 
of Christ, have been heightened by the zeal of Christian transcribers. 
The circumstance of Kublai , who is known to have been of an active and 
inquisitive mind, requesting to be furnished with a number of mission 
aries from Europe, to instruct his ignorant Tartar subjects in religion, 
and more especially in the practice of useful arts, is no more than what 
has been frequently done since, by the princes of half-barbarous nations, 
amongst whom the doctrine of the Koran had not already taken root. 
With regard to the holy oil, we find its importance thus stated by 
Chardin: " Ce qu il (le clerge Armenien) vend le plus cher, ce sont les 
saintes huiles, que les Grecs appellent myrone. La plupart des Chretiens 
orieiitaux s imaginent. que c est un baume physiquement salutaire contre 
toutes les maladies de 1 arrie. Le patriarche a seul le droit de la con- 
sacrer. II la vend aux eveques et aux pretres. II y a quelques douze 

1 6 Travels of Marco Polo 

heard these commands addressed to them by the grand khan 
they humbly prostrated themselves before him, declaring their 
willingness and instant readiness to perform, to the utmost of 
their ability, whatever might be the royal will. Upon which 
he caused letters, in the Tartarian language, to be written in 
his name to the pope of Rome, and these he delivered into 
their hands. He likewise gave orders that they should be 
furnished with a golden tablet displaying the imperial cipher, 1 
according to the usage established by his majesty; in virtue 
of which the person bearing it, together with his whole suite, 
are safely conveyed and escorted from station to station by the 
governors of all places within the imperial dominions, and are 
entitled, during the time of their residing in any city, castle, 
town, or village, to a supply of provisions and everything 
necessary for their accommodation. 

Being thus honourably commissioned they took their leave 
of the grand khan, and set out on their journey, but had not 
proceeded more than twenty days when the officer, named 
Khogatal, their companion, fell dangerously ill, in the city 
named Alau. 2 In this dilemma it was determined, upon con 
sulting all who were present, and with the approbation of the 
man himself, that they should leave him behind. In the pro 
secution of their journey they derived essential benefit from 
being provided with the royal tablet, which procured them 
attention in every place through which they passed. Their 
expenses were defrayed, and escorts were furnished. But 
notwithstanding these advantages, so great were the natural 
difficulties they had to encounter, from the extreme cold, the 
snow, the ice, and the flooding of the rivers, that their pro 
gress was unavoidably tedious, and three years elapsed before 
they were enabled to reach a sea-port town in the lesser 

ans que celui de Perse se mit en tete d empecher les ecclesiastiques 
Armeniens de tout Forient, de se pourvoir des saintes huiles ailleurs que 
chez lui. Ceux de Turquie s en fournissent depuis long- terns a Jeru 
salem, aupres du patriarche Armenien qui y reside, et qui est le chef de 
tous les Chretiens Armeniens de I empire Ottoman." Voy. en Perse, 
torn. i. p. 170, 4to. 

1 Frequent mention is made in the Chinese writings of the tchikouei, 
or tablet of honour, delivered to great officers on their appointment; 
upon which their titles are set forth in gold letters, and which entitles 
them to considerable privileges in travelling. That which is here spoken 
of may be supposed to have been of nearly the same kind. In the vulgar 
European dialect of Canton, it is termed the emperor s grand chop, a 
word used to express " seal, mark, warrant, licence, or passport." 

2 The name of the place where Khogatal was left is omitted in Marsden, 
and in the French and some of the Italian texts. 

Return of the Brothers 17 

Armenia,, named Laiassus. 1 Departing from thence by sea, 
they arrived at Acre 2 in the month of April, 1269, and there 
learned, with extreme concern, that pope Clement the Fourth 
was recently dead. 3 A legate whom he had appointed, named 
M. Tebaldo de Vesconti di Piacenza, was at this time resident 
in Acre, 4 and to him they gave an account of what they had in 
command from the grand khan of Tartary. He advised them 
by all means to wait the election of another pope, and when 
that should take place, to proceed with the object of their 
embassy. Approving of this counsel, they determined upon 
employing the interval in a visit to their families in Venice. 
They accordingly embarked at Acre in a ship bound to Negro- 
pont, and from thence went on to Venice, where Nicolo Polo 
found that his wife, whom he had left with child at his de 
parture, was dead, after having been delivered of a son, who 
received the name of Marco, and was now of the age of nineteen 
years. 5 This is the Marco by whom the present work is com- 

1 We have given the name Laiassus from the Latin text, instead of 
Giazza, given in Marsden s text, which is an evident corruption. The 
place meant is a port on the northern side of the gulf of Scandaroon, or 
Issus, which in our modern maps and books of geography has the various 
appellations of Lajazzo, Aiazzo, Aiasso, L Aias, and Layassa. 

* Acre, properly Akka, the ancient Ptolemais, a maritime city of Pales 
tine, was taken from the Saracens, in mo, by the Crusaders. In 1187 
it fell into the hands of Saladin or Salah-eddin; and in 1191 it was 
wrested from him by the Christian forces, under Philippe Auguste, king 
of France, and Richard Coeur de Lion, king of England. In 1265, and 
again in 1269 (about the period at which our travellers arrived there), 
it was unsuccessfully attacked by Bibars, sultan of Egypt. In 1291 it 
was finally conquered from the Christians, and in great part demolished, 
by Khalil, another Egyptian sultan, of the dynasty of Mameluk Baha- 
rites. In modern days, it suddenly arose from the obscurity in which 
it had lain for five centuries, and once more became celebrated for the 
determined and triumphant resistance there made, in 1798 and 1799, by 
Jezzar Pasha, assisted by a small British squadron and the gallantry of 
its distinguished commander, against the furious and sanguinary efforts 
of the invader of Egypt. 

3 Clement IV. died on the 29th of November, of the year 1268. The 
event was consequently a recent one when our travellers arrived at 
Acre ,in April, 1269. It may be observed that the date of their arrival 
is differently stated in the MSS., some reading 1260, the Latin text having 
1270, and others 1272. Some MSS. specify the 3oth of April as the day 
of their arrival. 

4 That Acre was the residence of a legate from the papal see about 
this period is proved by other records. 

6 The Basle, as well as the earlier Latin version, and the Italian 
epitomes, state the age of Marco, who was to become the historian of the 
family, to have been then only fifteen years. If this reading be correct, 
as probably it is, the father, who arrived at Acre in 1269, and may be 
presumed to have reached Venice in 1270, must have left home about 
the year 1255. (See Note :J , on p. 10.) The age of nineteen seems to have 
been assigned in order to make it consistent with the supposed departure 
in 1250 

i 8 Travels of Marco Polo 

posed, and who will give therein a relation of all those matters 
of which he has been an eye-witness. 

3. In the meantime the election of a pope was retarded by 
so many obstacles, that they remained two years in Venice,, 
continually expecting its accomplishment; 1 when at length, 
becoming apprehensive that the grand khan might be dis 
pleased at their delay, or might suppose it was not their inten 
tion to revisit his country, they judged it expedient to return 
to Acre; and on this occasion they took with them young 
Marco Polo. Under the sanction of the legate they made a 
visit to Jerusalem, and there provided themselves with some 
of the oil belonging to the lamp of the holy sepulchre, con 
formably to the directions of the grand khan. As soon as 
they were furnished with his letters addressed to that prince 
bearing testimony to the fidelity with which they had en 
deavoured to execute his commission, and explaining to him 
that the pope of the Christian church had not as yet been 
chosen, they proceeded to the before-mentioned port of 
Laiassus. Scarcely however had they taken their departure, 
when the legate received messengers from Italy, despatched 
by the college of cardinals, announcing his own elevation to 
the papal chair; and he thereupon assumed the name of 
Gregory the Tenth. 2 Considering that he was now in a situa 
tion that enabled him fully to satisfy the wishes of the Tartar 
sovereign, he hastened to transmit letters to the king of 
Armenia, 3 communicating to him the event of his election, 

1 A vacancy in the papal see, for a period of nearly three years, occurred 
on this occasion, in consequence of the cabals existing in the Sacred 
College ; when, at length, it was determined to refer the choice of a pope 
to six of the cardinals, who elected Tebaldo of Piacenza, on the first day 
of September, 1271. In order to prevent the inconvenience and scandal 
of such delays for the future, the institution of the Conclave (upon a 
principle that resembles the impanelling of our English juries) was 

2 In the list of sovereign pontiffs we find him styled " B. Gregorius X. 
Placentinus." His election, as has been mentioned, took place on the 
ist of September, 1271. He was then acting as legate in Syria; but, 
having early notice of the event, he was enabled to take his departure 
from thence so soon as the i8th November following, and landed at 
Brindisi, near Otranto, in January, 1272. 

8 At this time Leon, or Livon II., reigned in the lesser Armenia, the 
capital of which was Sis, and Ai as, or Ai azzo, its chief port. His father, 
whom we call Haiton, and the Arabian writers Hatem, had acted a con 
spicuous part in the late transactions, having accompanied Hulagu from 
the court of Mangu-khan to Persia, and assisted in his wars with the 
Mussulmans. In 1270 he had obtained the consent of Abaka the son of 
Hulagu, then his liege sovereign, for transferring the crown of Armenia, 
on account of his age and infirmities, to his son Leon. The principal 
actions of his life are recorded by his namesake, relation and cotein- 

Election of Pope Gregory X. 1 9 

and requesting, in case the two ambassadors who were on their 
way to the court of the grand khan should not have already 
quitted his dominions,, that he would give directions for their 
immediate return. These letters found them still in Armenia, 
and with great alacrity they obeyed the summons to repair 
once more to Acre; for which purpose the king furnished them 
with an armed galley ; sending at the same time an ambassador 
from himself, to offer his congratulations to the sovereign 

Upon their arrival, his holiness received them in a distin 
guished manner, and immediately despatched them with letters 
papal, accompanied by two friars of the order of Preachers, 
who happened to be on the spot; men of letters and of science, 
as well as profound theologians. One of them was named Fra 
Nicolo da Vicenza, and the other, Fra Guielmo da Tripoli. 
To them he gave licence and authority to ordain priests, to 
consecrate bishops, and to grant absolution as fully as he 
could do in his own person. He also charged them with 
valuable presents, and among these, several handsome vases 
of crystal, to be delivered to the grand khan in his name, and 
along with his benediction. Having taken leave, they again 
steered their course to the port of Laiassus, 1 where they landed, 
and from thence proceeded into the country of Armenia. 
Here they received intelligence that the soldan of Babylonia, 
named Bundokdari, had invaded the Armenian territory with 
a numerous army, and had overrun and laid waste the country 
to a great extent. 2 Terrified at these accounts, and appre- 

porary, who, having long distinguished himself as a soldier, became an 
ecclesiastic. His work was edited by Grynasus, at Basle and Paris, in 
1532, under the title of " Haithonis Armeni de Tartaris liber," and again, 
by Andreas Miiller, in 1671, under that of " Haithoni Armeni Historia 
Orientalis: quae eadem et de Tartaris inscribitur." See also Abul- 
Pharajii Hist. pp. 328 357; and De Guignes, Hist. Gen. liv. xv. pp. 

1 As it may be presumed that our travellers commenced their journey 
about the time of the sailing of Pope Gregory from Acre, the period is 
fixed by authority that will scarcely admit dispute, to the end of the 
year 1271, or beginning of 1272. 

2 This soldan was Bibars, surnamed Bundokdari, Mameluk sultan of 
Egypt (which is meant by Babylonia), who had conquered the greater 
part of Syria, and had already (in or about 1266) invaded Armenia, 
and plundered the towns of Sis and Ai s. In 1270 he made himself 
master of Antioch, slew or made captives of all the Christian inhabitants, 
and demolished its churches, the most magnificent and celebrated in the 
East. It must have been about the beginning of the year 1272 that our 
travellers entered Armenia; and, although it is not stated specifically 
that any irruption by the soldan took place at that time, it is evident 
that he had not ceased to harass the neighbouring country of Syria; and, 

2o Travels of Marco Polo 

hensive for their lives, the two friars determined not to proceed 
further, and delivering over to the Venetians the letters and 
presents entrusted to them by the pope, they placed themselves 
under the protection of the master of the knights templars, 1 
and with him returned directly to the coast. Nicolo, Maffeo, 
and Marco, however, undismayed by perils or difficulties (to 
which they had long been inured), passed the borders of 
Armenia, and prosecuted their journey. After crossing 
deserts of several days march, and passing many dangerous 
defiles, they advanced so far, in a direction between north-east 
and north, that at length they gained information of the grand 
khan, who then had his residence in a large and magnificent 
city named Cle-men-fu. 2 Their whole journey to this place 
occupied no less than three years and a half; but, during the 
winter months, their progress had been inconsiderable. 3 The 
grand khan having notice of their approach whilst still remote, 
md being aware how much they must have suffered from 
fatigue, sent forward to meet them at the distance of forty 
days journey, and gave orders to prepare in every place 
through which they were to pass, whatever might be requisite 
to their comfort. By these means, and through the blessing 
of God, they were conveyed in safety to the royal court. 

notwithstanding the formidable combination just mentioned, we find 
him again, in 1276, invading the province of Rum, immediately border 
ing on the lesser Armenia to the northward. The alarms must have 
been perpetual, and these alone may have been sufficient to deter the two 
theologians from proceeding with their more adventurous companions; 
who did not, however, meet with the enemy. 

1 It is well known that the knights of the hospital of St. John of Jeru 
salem, and the knights of the Temple, were two great monastic military 
orders that arose from the fanaticism of the crusades, and became the 
most regular and effective support of the Christian cause in Asia." It is 
not unlikely that a body of the latter may have been stationed in this 
part of Armenia (which we should term the pashalic of Marash), for its 
defence, and the ecclesiastics would naturally seek the protection of its 
commander, who may have been the master, but was more probably 
only a knight of the order. 

2 The ordinary residence of Kublai at this period must have been Yen- 
king (near the spot where Peking now stands), whilst he was employed 
in laying the foundations of his new capital of Ta-tu, of which particular 
mention will be made in the sequel. The operations of war, or the regu 
lations of newly-conquered provinces, might, however, occasion his visit 
ing other cities; and our travellers may have found him in the western 
part of his dominions. " II etablit sa cour d abord," says Du Halde, 
" a Tai-yuen-fou, capitale de la province de Chan-si, et ensuite il la 
transporta a Peking."- -Descript, de la Chine, torn. i. p. 496. 

3 When the Teshu Lama of Tibet visited (in 1779-80) the late emperor 
of China, at Peking, his journey (although from what we consider a 
neighbouring country, and which has since been garrisoned by Chinese 
troops) occupied ten months, during four of which he was detained at 
one place by the snow, 

The Brothers Reach China 21 

4. Upon their arrival they were honourably and graciously 
received by the grand khan, in a full assembly of his principal 
officers. When they drew nigh to his person, they paid their 
respects by prostrating themselves on the floor. He imme 
diately commanded them to rise, and to relate to him the 
circumstances of their travels, with all that had taken place 
in their negotiation with his holiness the pope. To their 
narrative, which they gave in the regular order of events, and 
delivered in perspicuous language, he listened with attentive 
silence. The letters and the presents from pope Gregory 
were then laid before him, and, upon hearing the former read, 
he bestowed much commendation on the fidelity, the zeal, 
and the diligence of his ambassadors ; and receiving with due 
reverence the oil from the holy sepulchre, he gave directions 
that it should be preserved with religious care. Upon his 
observing Marco Polo, and inquiring who he was, Nicolo made 
answer, This is your servant, and my son; upon which the 
grand khan replied, " He is welcome, and it pleases me much," 
and he caused him to be enrolled amongst his attendants of 
honour. And on account of their return he made a great 
feast and rejoicing; and as long as the said brothers and 
Marco remained in the court of the grand khan, they were 
honoured even above his own courtiers. Marco was held in 
high estimation and respect by all belonging to the court. He 
learnt in a short time and adopted the manners of the Tartars, 
and acquired a proficiency in four different languages, which 
he became qualified to read and write. 1 Finding him thus 
accomplished, his master was desirous of putting his talents for 
business to the proof, and sent him on an important concern of 
state to a city named Karazan, 2 situated at the distance of six 

1 Perhaps the Moghul or Mungal, Ighor, Marichu, and Chinese. The 
last will be thought the least probable; but no inference should be 
drawn from his orthography of Chinese names in European characters, 
and particularly in the corrupted state of the text. The Latin text says 
that Marco learnt " the iartar and four other languages; " the French 
text says, " their language and four different characters " of writing. 

2 Having here the name merely, without any circumstance but that of 
its remoteness from the capital of China, we must presume it to be in 
tended for a city of Khorasan; to which there is no objection but the 
probability of his having passed through that province when he first 
visited Tartary, and that it is not here spoken of as a place with which 
he had been previously acquainted. It was then (together with Persia) 
under the dominion of the second son of Hulagu, who succeeded his 
brother Abaka, and took the name of Ahmed Khan, upon his embracing 
the Mahometan religion. It would, perhaps, be taking a liberty with 
the orthography to suppose that the name might be intended for Khor- 
asmia, the Kharism of modern geographers. 

22 Travels of Marco Polo 

months journey from the imperial residence; on which occa 
sion he conducted himself with so much wisdom and prudence 
in the management of the affairs entrusted to him, that his 
services became highly acceptable. On his part, perceiving 
that the grand khan took a pleasure in hearing accounts of 
whatever was new to him respecting the customs and manners 
of people, and the peculiar circumstances of distant countries, 
he endeavoured, wherever he went, to obtain correct informa 
tion on these subjects, and made notes of all he saw and heard, 
in order to gratify the curiosity of his master. In short, 
during seventeen years : that he continued in his service, he 
rendered himself so useful, that he was employed on confi 
dential missions to every part of the empire and its depen 
dencies; and sometimes also he travelled on his own private 
account, but always with the consent, and sanctioned by the 
authority, of the grand khan. Under such circumstances it 
was that Marco Polo had the opportunity of acquiring a know 
ledge, either by his own observation, or what he collected from 
others, of so many things, until his time unknown, respecting 
the eastern parts of the world, and which he diligently and 
regularly committed to writing, as in the sequel will appear. 
And by this means he obtained so much honour, that he pro 
voked the jealousy of the other officers of the court. 

5. Our Venetians having now resided many years at the 
imperial court, and in that time having realized considerable 
wealth, in jewels of value and in gold, felt a strong desire to 
revisit their native country, and, however honoured and 
caressed by the sovereign, this sentiment was ever predomi 
nant in their minds. It became the more decidedly their 
object, when they reflected on the very advanced age of the 
grand khan, whose death, if it should happen previously to 
their departure, might deprive them of that public assistance 
by which alone they could expect to surmount the innumerable 
difficulties of so long a journey, and reach their homes in 

1 In Rarnusio s text the period is said to be ventisei annt, " twenty-six 
years," and Purchas endeavours to explain in what sense this number 
should be understood ; but I prefer, in this instance, the reading of the 
Latin version, which has " xvii annos," as more consistent with the fact. 
It is certain that the family did not leave Acre, on their return to China, 
before the end of 1271; and as there is reason to believe that they did 
not reach the emperor s court before 1273 or 1274, nor remain there 
beyond 1291, it follows that the period of Marco s service could not have 
exceeded seventeen years by more than a few months. Twenty-six 
years include the whole of the period elapsed since the first visit of his 
father and uncle in 1264 or 1265. 

Queen Bolgana 23 

safety; which on the contrary, in his lifetime, and through his 
favour, they might reasonably hope to accomplish. Nicolo 
Polo accordingly took an opportunity one day, when he 
observed him to be more than usually cheerful, of throwing 
himself at his feet, and soliciting on behalf of himself and his 
family to be indulged with his majesty s gracious permission 
for their departure. But far from showing himself disposed 
to comply with the request, he appeared hurt at the applica 
tion, and asked what motive they could have for wishing to 
expose themselves to all the inconveniences and hazards of a 
journey in which they might probably lose their lives. If gain, 
he said, was their object, he was ready to give them the double 
of whatever they possessed, and to gratify them with honours 
to the extent of their desires; but that, from the regard he 
bore to them, he must positively refuse their petition. 

It happened, about this period, that a queen named Bolgana, 1 
the wife of Arghun, 2 sovereign of India, died, and as her last 
request (which she likewise left in a testamentary writing) 
conjured her husband that no one might succeed to her place on 
his throne and in his affections, who was not a descendant of her 
own family, now settled under the dominion of the grand khan, 3 

1 Although we do not find in the histories of this period that have 
come to our hands, any mention of the consort of Arghun-khan, yet the 
name that is here written Bolgana, and in the Latin of the Basle edition, 
as well as that of the British Museum manuscript, Balgana occurs, with 
little difference of orthography, amongst the females of the family. The 
daughter of Jagata i, son of Jengiz-khan and uncle of Hulagu, was named 
Bolghan-khatun, as appears from the " Rouzat alsafa " of Mirkhond. 
The Latin and French texts, and the Italian text in Boni s edition, call 
the queen Bolgara. 

2 Arghun-khan, the son of Abaka-khan, and grandson of Hulagu-il- 
khan, succeeded his uncle Ahmed-khan Nikodar on the throne of Persia, 
Khorasan, and other neighbouring countries, in 1284; and his first act, 
as we are informed by De Guignes (Liv. xvii. p. 265) was to send to the 
emperor Kublai , as the head of the family and his liege sovereign, to 
demand the investiture of his estates. The death of his queen, here 
spoken of, must, from the circumstances mentioned in the sequel, have 
taken place about the year 1287, and he himself died in 1291. The 
name in all the versions of the work is uniformly written Argon, which 
approaches extremely near to the Persian orthography. 

3 The grand khan, at whose court the family of this queen is said to 
have resided in Kataia, was the grand- uncle of Arghun, her husband, 
and the queen herself was probably of the same royal Moghul family, 
from the common stock of Jengiz-khan. Her anxiety therefore was, 
that her husband should not degrade himself and her memory, by con 
tracting a marriage with any person of less noble lineage than their own. 
Viewing the circumstances therefore in their proper light, it will be found 
that what might at first be thought a romantic story, of a king of India 
sending an embassy to an emperor of China, for the purpose of obtaining 
a wife, resolves itself into the simple and natural transaction, of one of 
the younger members of a great family applying to the head of the house 

24 Travels of Marco Polo 

in the country of Kathay. 1 Desirous of complying with 
this solemn entreaty, Arghun deputed three of his nobles, 
discreet men, whose names were Ulatai, Apusca, and Goza, 2 
attended by a numerous retinue, as his ambassadors to the 
grand khan, with a request that he might receive at his hands 
a maiden to wife, from among the relatives of his deceased 
queen. The application was taken in good part, and under 
the directions of his majesty, choice was made of a damsel 
aged seventeen, extremely handsome and accomplished, whose 
name was Kogatin, 3 and of whom the ambassadors, upon her 
being shown to them, highly approved. When everything 
was arranged for their departure, and a numerous suite of 
attendants appointed, to do honour to the future consort of 
king Arghun, they received from the grand khan a gracious 
dismissal, and set out on their return by the way they came. 
Having travelled for eight months, their further progress was 

to be allowed to strengthen the connexion, by marrying from amongst 
those who were probably his cousins in the second degree; for we may 
presume that if this female had not been one of Kublai s own immediate 
race, (a granddaughter, perhaps, as he was then advanced in years,) 
there would not have existed a necessity for making so formal a demand. 
In regard to the distance between Persia and China, which might be con 
sidered an objection to the probability of the fact, it is well known that 
amongst all the branches of this Moghul family, however remote from 
each other, a continual intercourse had, up to that period, been main 
tained, and Arghun himself had applied for and received his investiture 
from the same monarch. In the event, however, it proved that the 
difficulties attending the returning journey, over land, had become 

1 The situation of Khata i, or Kataia, (or as it was usually called by the 
medieval writers, Cathay,) has been a subject of much discussion amongst 
the learned; but it cannot, I think, be doubted by those who consult 
the eastern geographers and historians rather than the Greek, that they 
apply the name to the northern provinces of what we call China, which 
were conquered by Jengiz-khan, and his son, Okta i, not from a Chinese 
government, but from a race of eastern Tartars, called Niu-che and Kin, 
by whom they had been subdued about one hundred and twenty years 
before. Whether they confine it strictly to these provinces, or include 
some of the adjoining parts of Tartary, without-side the wall, it is not 
easy to determine, as their accounts of these regions are far from being 
precise; but the former I should judge to be the case. 

8 These names vary considerably in the different versions and editions, 
where they appear in the forms of Ulatai and Gulatay, Apusca, Apusta, 
and Ribusca, Goza, and Coyla; all of them, probably, much disfigured 
by transcribing from indistinct manuscripts. The Latin text calls them 
Oulata, Alpusca, and Cor. They are not, however, of any historical 

3 One of the wives of Hulagu, and mother of Ahmed-khan Nikodar 
(the uncle of Arghun), was named Kutai-khatun, of which Kogatin, 
(otherwise written Gogatim and Koganyn) may perhaps be a corruption. 
The word khatun, which signifies "lady," is very frecjuently annexed 
to, or forms parts of proper names, borne by Persian and Tartar women 
of rank. 

Return of the Brothers 25 

obstructed and the roads shut up against them, by fresh wars 
that had broken out amongst the Tartar princes. 1 Much 
against their inclinations, therefore, they were constrained to 
adopt the measure of returning to the court of the grand khan, 
to whom they stated the interruption they had met with. 

About the time of their reappearance, Marco Polo happened 
to arrive from a voyage he had made, with a few vessels under 
his orders, to some parts of the East Indies, 2 and reported to 
the grand khan the intelligence he brought respecting the 
countries he had visited, with the circumstances of his own 
navigation, which, he said, was performed in those seas with 
the utmost safety. This latter observation having reached 
the ears of the three ambassadors, who were extremely anxious 
to return to their own country, from whence they had now 
been absent three years, they presently sought a conference 
with our Venetians, whom they found equally desirous of 
revisiting their home; and it was settled between them that 
the former, accompanied by their young queen, should obtain 
an audience of the grand khan, and represent to him with what 
convenience and security they might effect their return by sea, 
to the dominions of their master; whilst the voyage would be 
attended with less expense than the journey by land, 3 and be 
performed in a shorter time; according to the experience of 
Marco Polo, who had lately sailed in those parts. Should his 
majesty incline to give his consent to their adopting that mode 
of conveyance, they were then to urge him to suffer the three 
Europeans, as being persons well skilled in the practice of 
navigation, to accompany them until they should reach the 

1 These wars must have taken place about the year 1289, and pro 
bably in the country of Mawara lnahr, or Transoxiana, amongst the 
descendants of Jagatai or Zagatai, whose history is particularly obscure; 
but there is reason to believe that they (or any of the Moghul princes) 
were seldom in a state of tranquillity. Troubles were also excited, 
nearer to China, by a younger brother of Kubla i, who attempted to dis 
pute with him the right to the empire. 

2 What are here termed the East Indies must not be understood of the 
continent of India, but of some of the islands in the eastern archipelago, 
perhaps the Philippines, or possibly the coast of Tsiampa, or Champa, 
which, in another part of the work, our author speaks of having visited. 
The voyage here mentioned was subsequent to the grand and disastrous 
expedition which the active genuis of Kublai led him to fit out against 
the kingdom of Japan. It should be observed that the Latin and French 
texts, and the Italian published by Boni, say nothing of the ships, but 
merely state that he was returning from an embassy to India. 

3 The suggestion of this economical motive may seem extraordinary, 
but attachment to money was one of the weak parts of Kublai s char 
acter, and the practices he adopted, or connived at, for raising it. have 
been the subject of much reprehension. 

26 Travels of Marco Polo 

territory of king Arghun. The grand khan upon receiving 
this application showed by his countenance that it was exceed 
ingly displeasing to him, averse as he was to parting with the 
Venetians. Feeling nevertheless that he could not with pro 
priety do otherwise than consent, he yielded to their entreaty. 
Had it not been that he found himself constrained by the im 
portance and urgency of this peculiar case, they would never 
otherwise have obtained permission to withdraw themselves 
from his service. He sent for them, however, and addressed 
them with much kindness and condescension, assuring them of 
his regard, and requiring from them a promise that when they 
should have resided some time in Europe and with their own 
family, they would return to him once more. With this object 
in view he caused them to be furnished with the golden tablet 
(or royal chop), which contained his order for their having free 
and safe conduct through every part of his dominions, with 
the needful supplies for themselves and their attendants. He 
likewise gave them authority to act in the capacity of his 
ambassadors to the pope, the kings of France and Spain, and 
the other Christian princes. 1 

At the same time preparations were made for the equipment 
of fourteen ships, each having four masts, and capable of being 
navigated with nine sails, 2 the construction and rigging of 
which would admit of ample description; but, to avoid pro 
lixity, it is for the present omitted. Among these vessels there 
were at least four or five that had crews of two hundred and 
fifty or two hundred and sixty men. On them were embarked 
the ambassadors, having the queen under their protection, 

1 In the Latin version it is said that he appointed ambassadors of his 
own to these monarchs to accompany the expedition; but as no allusion 
is afterwards made to such personages, although an obvious occasion 
(that of the mortality) presents itself, the Italian reading is considered 
as preferable. 

2 For the modern practice, in the northern part of China, and parti 
cularly on the Pe-ho, of rigging vessels intended to be employed in foreign 
voyages, with four masts, we have the authority of Barrow, who says: 
" It is impossible not to consider the notices given by this early traveller 
(Marco Polo) as curious, interesting, and valuable; and as far as they 
regard the empire of China, they bear internal evidence of their being 
generally correct. He sailed from China in a fleet consisting of fourteen 
ships, each carrying four masts, and having their holds partitioned into 
separate chambers. . . . We observed many hundreds of a larger de 
scription, that are employed in foreign voyages, all carrying four masts." 

Travels in China, p. 45. In the Latin version the words are, " quarum 

quaslibet habebat quatuor malos, et multas ex illis ibant cum duodecim 

veils," " of which each had four masts, and many of them went with 

twelve sails." It is well known that now Chinese vessels do not carry 
any kind of topsail. 

Return of the Brothers 27 

together with Nicolo, Maffeo, and Marco Polo, when they had 
first taken their leave of the grand khan, who presented them 
with many rubies and other handsome jewels of great value. 
He also gave directions that the ships should be furnished with 
stores and provisions for two years. 1 

6. After a navigation of about three months, they arrived 
at an island which lay in a southerly direction, named Java, 2 
where they saw various objects worthy of attention, of which 
notice shall be taken in the sequel of the work. Taking their 
departure from thence, they employed eighteen months in the 
Indian seas before they were enabled to reach the place of their 
destination in the territory of king Arghun; 3 and during this 
part of their voyage also they had an opportunity of observing 
many things, which shall, in like manner, be related hereafter. 
But here it may be proper to mention, that between the day of 
their sailing and that of their arrival, they lost by deaths, of 
the crews of the vessels and others who were embarked, about 
six hundred persons ; and of the three ambassadors, only one, 
whose name was Goza, survived the voyage; whilst of all the 
ladies and female attendants one only died. 4 

Upon landing they were informed that king Arghun had 
died some time before, 5 and that the government of the 
country was then administered, on behalf of his son, who was 
still a youth, by a person of the name of Ki-akato. 6 From 

1 The sailing of this remarkable expedition from the Pe-ho, or river of 
Peking, we may infer, from circumstances mentioned in different parts 
of the work, to have taken place about the beginning of 1291, three 
years before the death of the emperor Kubla i, and four years previous 
to the arrival of the Polo family at Venice, in 1295. 

2 Some details of this part of the voyage are given in book iii. chap, 
x., where the island here called Java, is termed Java minor, and is evi 
dently intended for Sumatra. It will appear that they wanted the 
change of the monsoon in a northern port of that island, near the western 
entrance of the straits of Malacca. 

3 The place where the expedition ultimately arrived is not directly 
mentioned in any part of the work; but there are strong grounds for 
inferring it to have been the celebrated port of Ormuz. With respect 
to the prince named Arghun-khan, see Note 2 , on p. 23. 

4 This mortality is no greater than might be expected in vessels 
crowded with men unaccustomed to voyages of such duration, and who 
had passed several months at an anchorage in the straits of Malacca; 
and although it should have amounted to one- third of their whole 
number, the proportion would not have exceeded what was suffered by 
Lord Anson and other navigators of the seventeenth and eighteenth 

6 Arghun-khan, according to the authorities followed by De Guignes, 
died in the third month of the year 690 of the hejrah, answering to Maxell 
in the year of our Lord 1291. 

The person here named Ki-akato, or Chiacato in the. Italian ortho 
graphy, and described as the ruler of the country in the name of the late 

2 8 Travels of Marco Polo 

him they desired to receive instructions as to the manner in 
which they were to dispose of the princess, whom, by the 
orders of the late king, they had conducted thither. His 
answer was, that they ought to present the lady to Kasan, 1 
the son of Arghun, who was then at a place on the borders of 
Persia, which has its denomination from the Arbor secco, 2 
where an army of sixty thousand men was assembled for the 
purpose of guarding certain passes against the irruption of 
the enemy. 3 This they proceeded to carry into execution, 
and having effected it, they returned to the residence of Ki- 
akato, because the road they were afterwards to take lay in 
that direction. 4 Here, however, they reposed themselves for 

king s son, was Kai-khatu, the second son of Abaka-khan, and conse 
quently the brother of Arghun, upon whose death he is said to have 
seized the throne (although perhaps only as regent or protector), to the 
prejudice of his nephew, then a minor. 

1 The prince whose name is here written Kasan, or Casan, and by De 
Guignes Cazan, was Chazan-khan, the eldest son of Arghun. He did not 
succeed to the throne of Persia until the end of the year 1295, nearly 
five years after the death of his father, who had sent him to reside in 
Khorasan, under the tutelage of an atabeg, or governor, named Nu- 
roz, by whose persuasion he afterwards embraced the Mussulman faith, 
and took the name of Mahmud. It does not appear that he was molested 
in that province by his uncle Kai-khatu, and this recommendation, that 
the princess should be conveyed to him as the representative of his 
father, serves to show that they were not upon terms of actual hostility. 
It is further proved by the circumstance, that when, upon the murder 
of Kai-khatu, the government fell into the hands of Baidu (a grandson 
of Hulagu in a different line), and Ghazan marched with an army to 
Rey (Rages) to assert his hereditary claims, the first demand he made 
was, that the assassins of his uncle should be delivered up to him. After 
a doubtful struggle maintained during a period of eight months, the 
defection of his principal officers led to the destruction of the usurper, 
and Ghazan ascended the throne of Persia, about two years subsequently 
to the arrival of the princess, of whom nothing further is recorded. 

2 More circumstantial mention is made of this district, and of the tree 
from whence it is said to derive its appellation, in chap. xx. of this book. 

8 This is the important pass known to the ancients by the appellation 
of Portae Caspiae or Caspian Straits (to be distinguished from those of 
Derbend, as well as of Rudbar), and termed by Eastern geographers 
the Straits of Khowar, or Khawr, from a Persian word, signifying a 
valley between two mountains, or from a small town near the eastern 
entrance which bears the same name. " This remarkable chasm," says 
Rennell, " is now called the strait or passage of Khowar (Chora of the 
ancients), from a town or district in the neighbourhood. It is situated 
at the termination of the great Salt Desert, almost due north from 
Ispahan, and about fifty miles to the eastward of the ruins of Rey (or 
Rages). Alexander passed through it in his way from Rages towards 
Aria and Bactria. Delia Valle and Herbert amongst the moderns, and 
Pliny amongst the ancients, have described it particularly. It is eight 
miles through, and generally forty yards in breadth." Geographical 
System of Herodotus examined and explained, p. 174, note. 

4 From the preceding part of the narrative we might be led to suppose 
the residence of Kai-khatu to have been in one of the southern provinces 

The Brothers in Persia 29 

the space of nine months. 1 When they took their leave he 
furnished them with four golden tablets, each of them a cubit 
in length, five inches wide, and weighing three or four marks of 
gold. 2 Their inscription began with invoking the blessing of 
the Almighty upon the grand khan, 3 that his name might be 
held in reverence for many years, and denouncing the punish 
ment of death and confiscation of goods to all who should 
refuse obedience to the mandate. It then proceeded to direct 
that the three ambassadors, as his representatives, should be 
treated throughout his dominions with due honour, that their 
expenses should be defrayed, and that they should be pro 
vided with the necessary escorts. All this was fully complied 
with, and from many places they were protected by bodies of 
two hundred horse; nor could this have been dispensed with 
as the government of Ki-akato was unpopular, and the people 
were disposed to commit insults and proceed to outrages, 
which they would not have dared to attempt under the rule 
of their proper sovereign. 4 In the course of their journey our 

of Persia; but here, on the contrary, we find, that, conformably with 
the histories of the times, it lay in the route between the place where 
Ghazan was encamped, on the eastern side of the Caspian straits, and 
the country of Armenia, towards which our travellers were advancing. 
By D Herbelot, De Guignes, and others, we are accordingly told that 
the capital of the princes of this dynasty was the city of Tauris or Tabriz, 
in Aderbijan, but that they frequently resided (especially in summer) at 
Hamadan, in Aljebal, in order to be nearer to the Syrian frontier. 

1 From what has been said in the preceding note, we may presume 
this place to have been Tabriz. 

2 The mark being eight ounces, the tablets must have been unneces 
sarily expensive and inconveniently ponderous. The other versions do 
not specify either weight or size, and some state them to be only two 
additional tablets. 

3 This shows that the sovereignty of the head of the family was still 
acknowledged by these branches, and Kai-khatu might have particular 
motives for courting its sanction. Ghazan is said to have been the first 
who renounced this slight species of vassalage, and probably did not 
send an ambassador to China to demand the investiture. 

4 In the conduct here described we have a proof of the general doubt 
entertained respecting his right to the throne, although the Moghul 
chiefs affected to consider it as dependent upon their election. The 
historians all agree in reprobating his habits as debauched and infamous, 
and these chiefs, indignant at being governed by a prince so corrupt, 

equally hated by his subjects and despised by foreigners," resolved to 
remove him, and made an offer of the crown, not to Ghazan, whom 
they might think still too young, or too feeble in bodily frame, for their 
purpose, but to Baidu, a grandson of Hulagu, and cousin of the late 
king, who was then governor of Baghdad. A battle was fought, in 
which Kai-khatu, personally brave, found himself deserted by a principal 
officer who commanded a wing of his army, was defeated, and subse 
quently strangled. For a circumstantial detail of these transactions on 
the authority of Khondernir, see the Bibliptheque Orientale, under the 
article Baidu. See also the article Gangiatu, " que 1 on trouve aussi 

30 Travels of Marco Polo 

travellers received intelligence of the grand khan (Kublai) 
having departed this life ; l which entirely put an end to all 
prospect of their revisiting those regions. Pursuing, therefore, 
their intended route, they at length reached the city of Trebi- 
zond, from whence they proceeded to Constantinople, then to 
Negropont, 2 and finally to Venice, at which place, in the en 
joyment of health and abundant riches, they safely arrived in 
the year 1295. On this occasion they offered up their thanks 
to God, who had now been pleased to relieve them from such 
great fatigues, after having preserved them from innumerable 
perils. The foregoing narrative may be considered as a pre 
liminary chapter, the object of which is to make the reader 
acquainted with the opportunities Marco Polo had of acquiring 
a knowledge of the things he describes, during a residence of so 
many years in the eastern parts of the world 




IN commencing the description of the countries which Marco 
Polo visited in Asia, and of things worthy of notice which he 

nomme Caictu, et Caicatu." " Khondemir remarque que le veritable nom 
de ce prince stoit Aicatu, ou Gaicatu." We should learn from hence to 
hesitate before we condemn the orthography of our author, whose mode of 
writing this uncouth name differs so little, if at all, from some of these 
high authorities. It is a circumstance extremely remarkable, that one of 
the principal motives assigned for the revolt of the Moghul chiefs against 
this prince, was his having attempted to establish in his dominions a 
system of paper-money, like that of China. De Guignes, Hist, des Huns, 

* Kublai , whose name the Chinese pronounce Hupili or Hupile, whilst 
in their annals they bestow on him that of Chi-tsu, was proclaimed grand 
khan in the year 1260, became emperor of China upon the destruction of 
the dynasty of the Song, who reigned ill Manji or the provinces south 
of the great river Kiang, in 1280, and died in the beginning of 1294, at 
the age of eighty years. It is not surprising that the news of an event 
so important to all the tribes of Moghuls or Tartars should have found 
its way to the court of Persia, and consequently to our travellers, with 
extraordinary expedition. 

2 Their most direct route from Tabriz would have lain through Bedl 
in Kurdistan to Aleppo, but at this time the sultans of Egypt, with whom 
the kings of Persia were continually at war, had possession of all the 
seaports of Syria, and would pay little respect to their passports. By 
the way of Georgia to Trebisond, on the Euxine, their land-journey was 
shorter and more secure, and when at that place they were under the 
protection of the Christian prince, whose family reigned in the small 
independent kingdom of Trebisond, from 1204 to 1462. 

Account of Armenia 3 i 

observed therein, it is proper to mention that we are to dis 
tinguish two Armenias, the Lesser and the Greater. 1 The 
king of the Lesser Armenia dwells in a city called Sebastoz, 2 
and rules his dominions with strict regard to justice. The 
towns, fortified places, and castles are numerous. There is 
abundance of all necessaries of life, as well as of those things 
which contribute to its comfort. Game^Jpoth of beasts and 
birds . is in plenty. It must be said. howeveivtEa/ttli^aif oTthe 

"*O^ v _ f * * * * 

country is not remarkably healthy. In former times its gentry 
were esteemed expert and brave soldiers; but at the present 
day they are great drinkers, pusillanimous, and worthless. 
On the sea-coast there is a city named Laiassus, 3 a place of 
considerable traffic. Its port is frequented by merchants from 
Venice, Genoa, and many other places, who trade in spiceries 
and drugs of different sorts, manufactures of silk and of wool, Nk 
and other rich commodities. Those persons who design to 

1 This distinction of the Armenias into the Greater and the Lesser, is 
conformable to what we find in Ptolemy and the geographers of the 
middle ages; although other divisions have taken place since that 
part of Asia has been subject to the Ottoman empire. The Lesser 
Armenia is defined by Biisching as comprehending that part of Cap- 
padocia and Cilicia which lies along the western side of the Create! 
Armenia, and also on the western side of the Euphrates. That in the 
days of Haiton it extended south of Taurus, and included Cilicia (cam- 
pestris), which was not the case in more ancient times, we have the 
unexceptionable authority of that historian. 

2 As it appears from the passage quoted in the preceding note, as well 
as from other authorities, that Sis was the capital of the Lesser Armenia 
during the reigns of the Leons and Haitons, we are led to suppose the 
Sebastoz here mentioned to have been the ancient name of that city, or 
of one that stood on the same site. It is obvious, indeed, from the geo 
graphy of Ptolemy, that there were many places in Asia Minor that bore 
the names of Sebastia, Sebaste, and Sebastopolis (besides one in Syria) 
and in his enumeration of the towns of Cilicia, we find a Sebaste, to which] 
in the Latin translation, published at Venice in 1562, the epithet of 

augusta is annexed. Upon the foundations of this, Leon I. (from 
whom the country is called by the Arabians, Belan Leon, as well as Belad 
Sis), may have built the modern city, and the Greek name may have been 
still prevalent. We are told, however, that the city which preceded Sis 
as the capital of Armenia Minor, was named Messis, Massis, or Massissa 
the ancient Mopsuestia, and it must be confessed that if authority was 
not in opposition to conjecture, the sound of these names might lead us 
to suppose that the modern name was only an abbreviation of Mes-sis 
and Sebastoz a substitution for Mopsueste. In a subsequent part of 
the chapter the city of Sevasta or Sevaste, the modern Siwas or Sivas is 
spoken of under circumstances that appear to distinguish it entirely from 
the Armenian capital; having been recently conquered by the Moghuls 
from the Seljuk princes. 

1 Lajazzo, or Aias, is situated in a low, morassy country, formed by 
the alluvion of the two rivers Sihon and Jihon (of Cilicia) and fas 
observed to me by Major Rennell) at the present mouth of the latter 
Its trade has been transferred to Alexanclretta or Scancleroon oil the 
opposite or Syrian side of the gulf. 

32. Travels of Marco Polo 

travel into the interior of the Levant/ usually proceed in the 
first instance to this port of Laiassus. The boundaries of the 
Lesser Armenia are, on the south, the Land of Promise, now 
occupied by the Saracens; 2 on the north, Karamania, in 
habited by Turkomans; towards the north-east lie the cities 
of Kaisariah, Sevasta, 3 and many others subject to the Tar 
tars; and on the western side it is bounded by the sea, which 
extends to the shores of Christendom. 



THE inhabitants of Turkomania 4 may be distinguished into 
three classes. The Turkomans, who reverence Mahomet and 
follow his law, are a rude people, and dull of intellect. They 

1 Levant is a translation of the word Anatolia or Anadoli, from the 
Greek avaroXij " ortus, oriens," signifying the country that lies eastward 
from Greece. As the name of a region therefore it should be equivalent 
to Natolia, in its more extensive acceptation; and it is evident that our 
author employs it to denote Asia Minor. Smyrna is at present estee ned 
the principal port in the Levant, and the term seems to be now confined 
to the sea-coast, and to mercantile usage. 

2 For the Land of Promise, or Palestine, which extends no further to the 
north than Tyre, is here to be understood Syria, or that part of itcalled 
Coelo-Syria, which borders on Cilicia or the southern part of Armenia 
Minor. As the more general denomination of Syria includes Palestine, 
and the latter name was, in the time of the Crusades, more familiar to 
Europeans than the former, it is not surprising that they should some 
times be confounded. The Saracens here spoken of were the subjects 
of the Mameluk sultans or soldans of Egypt, who recoverd from the 
Christian powers in Syria, what the princes of the family of Saladin, or of 
the Ayubite dynasty, had lost. In other parts of the work the term is 
employed indiscriminately with that of Mahometan. 

3 The Turkomans of Karamania were a race of Tartars settled in Asia 
Minor, under the government of the Seljuk princes, of whom an account 
will be found in the following note. Kaisariah or Cassarea, and Sevasta or 
Sebaste, the Sebastopolis Cappadocias of Ptolemy and Siwas or Sivas of 
the present day, were cities belonging to the same dynasty, that had 
been conquered by the. Moghuls in the year 1242. 

4 By Turkomania we are to understand, generally, the possessions of 
the great Seljuk dynasty in Asia Minor, extending from Cilicia and 
Painphylia, in the south, to the shores of the Euxine sea, and from 
Pisidia and Mysia, in the west, to the borders of Armenia Minor; includ 
ing the greater part of Phrygia arid Cappadocia, together with Pontus, 
and particularly the modern provinces of Karamania and Rumiyah, or 

Province of Turkoman ia 33 

dwell amongst the mountains and in places difficult of access, 
where their object is to find good pasture for their cattle,, as 
they live entirely upon animal food. There is here an excel 
lent breed of horses which has the appellation of Turki, and 
fine mules which are sold at high prices. 1 The other classes 
are Greeks and Armenians, who reside in the cities and forti 
fied places, and gain their living by commerce and manu 
facture. The best and handsomest carpets in the world are 
wrought here, and also silks of crimson and other rich colours. 2 
Amongst its cities are those of Kogni, Kaisariah, and Sevasta, 
in which last Saint Blaise obtained the glorious crown of 
martyrdom. 3 They are all subject to the great khan, emperor 
of the Oriental Tartars, who appoints governors to them. 4 
We shall now speak of the Greater Armenia. 

the country of Rum. Of the former of these, the capital was Iconium, 
corrupted by the oriental writers to Kuniyah, and by those of the 
Crusades to Kogni; of the latter, Sebaste or Sebastopolis, corrupted 
to Siwas or Sivas. The chief from whom the dynasty of Seljuks derived 
its appellation, was by birth a Turkoman, of Turkistan, on the north 
eastern side of the river Sihon or Jaxartes, but in the service of a prince 
of Khozar, on the Wolga, from which he fled and pursued his fortune in 
Transoxiana; as did some of his family in Khorasan. Having acquired 
great celebrity, they were at length enabled, by the means of numerous 
tribes of Turkomans who joined their standard, to establish a sovereignty, 
or, in point of extent, an empire, the principal seat of which was in Persia. 
Another branch, about the year 1080, wrested the fine provinces of Asia 
Minor from the Greek emperors, and formed the kingdom of which we 
are now speaking. Through its territory the Christian princes repeatedly 
forced their way in their progress to the Holy Land, and it is computed 
by historians that not fewer than six hundred thousand men perished in 
this preliminary warfare. At length the power of the Seljuks yielded to 
the overwhelming influence of the house of Jengiz-khan, and in our 
author s time they were reduced to insignificance; but from their ruins 
sprang the empire of the Ottomans, the founder of which had been in the 
service of one of the last sultans of Iconium. 

1 The pastoral habits of the Turkoman Tartars are preserved to this 
day, even in Asia Minor, and the distinction of their tribes subsists also. 
The Turki breed of horses is esteemed throughout the East, for spirit 
and hardiness. 

2 " Et ibi fiunt soriani et tapeti pulchriores de mundo et pulchrioris 
coloris," are the words of the Latin text. 

Blaise, bishop of Sebasta, in Cappadocia, in the second and third 
centuries," says the Biographical Dictionary, " suffered death under 
Diocletian, by decapitation, after being whipped and having his flesh 
torn with iron combs. ... It is difficult to say how the invention (of 
wool combing) came to be attributed to him; but it had probably no 
better origin than the circumstance of his being tortured with the instru 
ments used in the combing of wool. * 

4 It is the family of Hulagu, and the tribes who followed his standard 
from the north, whom our author always designates by the name of 
Oriental Tartars, to distinguish them from the descendants of Batu, who 
settled near the Wolga, on the north-western side of the Caspian, and 
extended their conquests towards Europe; whilst the former entered 
Persia from the Eastern quarter, by the way of Transoxiana and Khorasan. 


34 Travels of Marco Polo 



ARMENIA Major is an extensive province, at the entrance of 
which is a city named Arzingan, 1 where there is a manufacture 
of very fine cotton cloth called bombazines, 2 as well as of 
many other curious fabrics, which it would be tedious to 
enumerate. It possesses the handsomest and most excellent 
baths of warm water, issuing from the earth, that are any 
where to be found. 3 Its inhabitants are for the most part 

_-^ wta ^ ^ ^ *H MM ^ 

1 Arzengan, or, as written by the Arabians, who have not the Persian 
g, Arzenjan, is a city near the frontier of Rumiyah, but just within the 
limits of Armenia Major. " Cette ville," says D Herbelot, " appartient 
plutot TArmenie, et fut prise par les Mogols ou Tar tares 1 an 640 de 
I Hegire, de J. C. 1242, apres la defaite de Kaikhosrou, fils d Aladin le 
Selgiucide, aussi bien que les villes de Sebaste et de C6saree." By an 
oriental geographer it is said to be, " Oppidum celeberrimum, elegans, 
amcenum, copiosum bonis rebus, incolisque: pertinens ad Armeniam: 
inter Rumaeas provincias et Chalatam situm, haud procul Arzerroumo: 
esseque incolas ejus maixmam partem Armenios." Alberti Schultens 
Index Geographicus in Vitam Saladini. Josaphat Barbaro, a Venetian, 
who travelled into Persia, in the fifteenth century, speaks of Arsengan 
as a place that had formerly been of consequence, but was then mostly 
in ruins. 

2 The name of a species of cloth which I have here translated " bom 
bazine," is in the Italian of Ramusio, " bochassini di bambagio," and in 
the Latin versions " buchiranus, buchyramis, and bucaramus." Its 
substance or texture is not clearly explained in our dictionaries. That 
of Cotgrave, printed in 1611, defines " boccasin," to be " a kind of fine 
buckeram, that hath a resemblance of taffata, and is much used for 
lining; also the stuffe callimanco." But this, it is evident, cannot apply 
to a manufacture of bombagio or cotton; and the Vocabolario della 
Crusca, as well as the Glossary of Du Cange, speak of " bucherame bian- 
chissima," and " bucherame bambagino," and both of them quote our 
author for the use of the word. All the examples convey the idea of 
fine, white, and soft cotton cloth ; the reverse of what is now called buck 
ram. The early Latin text speaks of boccorame and bambace as two 
distinct things. 

3 Natural warm baths are" found in many parts of Asia Minor, and 
particularly near Ancyra, the modern Angora or Anguri, which are still 
much frequented. Their situation is denoted by the word ThermaB, in 
RennelPs map explanatory of the Retreat of the Ten thousand. They 
are also spoken of at Teflis in Georgia; but of their existence at Arzengan 
I have not been able to find notice in the works of the Eastern geo 

City of Arzingan 35 

native Armenians, but under the dominion of the Tartars. 
In this province there are many cities, but Arzingan is the 
principal,, and the seat of an archbishop; and the next in con 
sequence are Argiron l and Darziz. 2 It is very extensive, and, 
in the summer season, the station of a part of the army of the 
Eastern Tartars, on account of the good pasture it affords for 
their cattle: but on the approach of winter they are obliged 
to change their quarters, the fall of snow being so very deep 
that the horses could not find subsistence, and for the sake of 
warmth and fodder they proceed to the southward. Within 
a castle named Paipurth, 3 which you meet with in going from 
Trebisond to Tauris, there is a rich mine of silver. 4 In the 
central part of Armenia stands an exceedingly large and high 
mountain, upon which, it is said, the ark of Noah rested, and 
for this reason it is termed the mountain of the ark. 6 The 

1 Argiron, or, in the Latin versions, Argyron, is a corruption of Arzerrum, 
Erzerum, or Arzen er-rum, a distinctive name given to a city called Arzen, 
as being the last strong place, in that direction, belonging to the Greek 
empire. " Arzerrum," says Abulfeda, " est extremus finis regionum 
Rumaeorum ab oriente. In ejus orientali et septentrionali latere est 
fons Euphratis." 

2 Darziz, which in the Basle edition is Darzirim, in the older Latin, Arziu, 
and in the Italian epitomes, Arciri and Arziri, is the town now called 
Arjis, situated on the border of the Lake Van, anciently named Arsissa 
palus. Argish," says Macdonald Kinneir, " is a town containing six 
thousand inhabitants, situated on the north-west side of the lake, three 
days journey from Van. There are four islands in the lake, on one of 
which is an Armenian monastery, and three hundred priests." Memoir 
of the Persian Empire, pp. 328, 329. These places, it may be observed, 
lay in pur author s returning route, from Tauris to Trebisond. 

3 Paipurth, the Baiburt of D Anville s and RennelTs maps, is situated 
among the mountains, in a northerly direction from Arzerrum. As the 
word purt signifies a castle in the Armenian language, and as the Arabian 
geographers, from not having the letter p in their alphabet, are obliged 
to substitute the b, it is probable that the former is the more genuine 
orthography. This castle is particularly noted by Josaphat Barbaro, 
who says, * Partendo d essa (Trabisonda) per andar a Thauris . . . il 
primo luogo notabile che si trova, e uno castello in piano in una valle 
d ognitorno circondata da monti, nominate Baiburth, castel forte e 
murato. . . . Cinque giornate piu in la, si trova Arsengan. . . . Poi 
si ritrova un castello nominate Carpurth." Viaggio in Persia, p. 48, ed. 
1545, i2ino. 

* Although this particular mine may have been exhausted, silver 
mines are known to exist in this part of Armenia. 

5 The mountain of Armenia (the Ararat of Scripture) upon which the 
ark is believed by the Christians of that country to have rested, stands 
not far from the city of Erivan or Irwan. The Mahometans, however, 
assign to it a different situation. " L opinion commune des Orientaux," 
says D Herbelot, est que Parche de Noe s arreta sur la montagne de 
Gioudi, qui est une des croupes du mont Taurus ou Gordia3us eri Ar- 
menie, et cette tradition est autorise en ce pays-la par plusieurs his- 
toires qui approchent fort de la fable." " Joudi," says Ibn Haukal, 
is a mountain near Nisibin. It is said that the ark of Noah (to whom 

Travels of Marco Polo 

circuit of its base cannot be compassed in less than two days 
The ascent is impracticable on account of the snow towards 
the summit, which never melts, but goes on increasing by each 
successive fall. In the lower region, however, near the plain, 
the melting of the snow fertilizes the ground, and occasions 
such an abundant vegetation, that all the cattle which collect 
there in summer from the neighbouring country, meet with a 
never-failing supply. 1 Bordering upon Armenia, to the south 
west, are the districts of Mosul and Maredin, which shall be 
described hereafter, and many others too numerous to parti 
cularize. To the north lies Zorzania, near the confines of which 
there is a fountain of oil which discharges so great a quantity 
as to furnish loading for many camels. 2 The use made of it 
is not for the purpose of food, but as an unguent for the cure of 
cutaneous distempers in men and cattle, as well as other com 
plaints ; and it is also good for burning. In the neighbouring 
country no other is used in their lamps, and people come from 
distant parts to procure it. 

be peace,) rested on the summit of this mountain." Ouseley s trans 
lation, p. 60. Major Rennell observes, that Jeudi is the part of the 
Carduchian mountains opposite to the Jezirat ibn Omar, and that the 
dervishes keep a light burning there, in honour of Noah and his ark. 

1 This fertility of the country in the vicinity of the mountains, is 
noticed by Moses Chorenensis, who says, " Habet autem Araratia montes 
camposque, atque omnem foecunditatem." Geographia, p. 361. 

2 Springs of petroleum or earth (properly, rock) oil, are found in many 
parts of the world. The spring or fountain here spoken of is that of 
Baku in Shirvan, on the border of the Caspian. " Near to this place," 
says John Cartwright, in what are termed the Preacher s Travels, " is a 
very strange and wonderful fountain under ground, out of which there 
springeth and issueth a marvellous quantity of black oyl, which serveth 
all parts of Persia to burn in their houses; and they usually carry it all 
over the country upon kine and asses, whereof you shall oftentimes meet 
three or four hundred in company." Oxford Coll. of Voyages, vol. i. 
(vii.) p. 731. Strahlenberg speaks of this as a spring of white naphtha, 
which he distinguishes from the black sort of bitumen; but the most 
satisfactory account of both white and black naphtha in this district is 
given by Kaempfer, in his Amcenitates Exoticae, p. 274 281. 

Situation of Georgia 37 



IN Zorzania 1 the king is usually styled David Melik, which 
in our language signifies David the king. 2 One part of the 
country is subject to the Tartars, and the other part, in con 
sequence of the strength of its fortresses, has remained in the 
possession of its native princes. It is situated between two 
seas, of which that on the northern (western) side is called the 
Greater sea (Euxine), and the other, on the eastern side, is 
called the sea of Abakti (Caspian). 3 This latter is in circuit 
two thousand eight hundred miles, and partakes of the nature 
of a lake, not communicating with any other sea. It has 
several islands, with handsome towns and castles, some of 
which are inhabited by people who fled before the grand Tartar, 
when he laid waste the kingdom or province of Persia, 4 and 
took shelter in these islands or in the fastnesses of the moun 
tains, where they hoped to find security. Some of the islands 
are uncultivated. This sea produces abundance of fish, 
particularly sturgeon and salmon at the mouths of the rivers, 

1 By Zorzania is meant the kingdom of Georgia, bordering on Armenia, 
and of which Teflis was the capital. The substitution of the z for the 
soft g, belonged to the old Venetian dialect, in which the original of our 
author s work is understood to have been written, and the orthography 
las been preserved in some of the Latin, as well as in the vulgar Italian 
versions. The early Latin text reads Georgia. 

2 The name of David or Davit frequently occurs in the list of kings who 
lave reigned in Georgia, and their predilection for it is traced to a very 
emote source. It is not surprising, therefore, that a traveller should 
mppose the names of the Georgian kings to have been, invariably, 
David. The title of Melik shows that our author s information was 
lerived from Arabs or Moghuls, who would naturally substitute it for 
,he native title of Meppe. 

3 The Caspian, which is generally termed by oriental writers the sea of 
hozar, was also called by the Persians the sea of Baku, and by this 
lame (Mar di Bachau) it appears in the maps to an edition of Ptolemy, 
printed at Venice in 1562. It derives the appellation from the celebrated 
dty and port of Baku, on its south-western coast. 

4 This refers to the conquest and devastation of Persia by the armies 
>f Jengiz-khan, about the year 1221. The islands, to which it is not 
mprobable a number of the wretched inhabitants fled for security, are 
it present uninhabited, or frequented only by fishermen. 

Travels of Marco Polo 

as well as others of a large sort. 1 The general wood of the 
country is the box-tree. 2 I was told that in ancient times the 
kings of the country were born with the mark of an eagle on 
the right shoulder. 3 The people are well made, bold sailors, 
expert archers, and fair combatants in battle. They are 
Christians, observing the ritual of the Greek Church, and 
wear their hair short, in the manner of the Western clergy. 
This is the province into which, when Alexander the Great 
attempted to advance northwards, he was unable to penetrate, 
by reason of the narrowness and difficulty of a certain pass, 
which on one side is washed by the sea, and is confined on the 
other by high mountains and woods, for the length of four 
miles; so that a very few men were capable of defending 
it against the whole world. Disappointed in this attempt, 
Alexander caused a great wall to be constructed at the entrance 
of the pass, and fortified it with towers, in order to restrain 
those who dwelt beyond it from giving him molestation. From 
its uncommon strength the pass obtained the name of the Gate 
of Iron, 4 and Alexander is commonly said to have enclosed the 

1 The fishery of the Caspian, especially about the mouths of the Wolga, 
has at all periods been important. Among the great variety of fish 
with which this river abounds," says P. H. Bruce, " the sturgeon is none 
of the least considerable, whose eggs afford what the Russians call ikari, 
and we caviar: the beluga, or white fish, deserves also to be mentioned; 
they are from five to six yards long, and thick in proportion. Besides 
these it yields also the osotrin, another very large fish, very fat and deli 
cious: this river also abounds with salmon, sterlitz, a most delicious 
fish, and innumerable other sorts too tedious to mention." Memoirs, 
p. 236. Strahlenberg also notices the beluja as " the largest eatable river- 
fish in the world, having seen one fifty-six feet in length, and eighteen in 
girth." P. 337- 

2 By modern travellers the box-tree is merely enumerated amongst 
the vegetable productions of the country, without any notice of its pre 
valence; but by Ambrogio Cantareno, who travelled in the fifteenth 
century, it is more particularly distinguished. Era in detta pianura," 
he says, in speaking of Mingrelia, " di molti arbori in modo di bussi, ma 
molto maggiori." P. 65, izmo. 

3 By this pretended tradition it may be understood that they were, 
or affected to be thought, a branch of the imperial family of Constan 
tinople, who bore the Roman eagle amongst their insignia. 

4 This is the celebrated pass between the foot of Mount Caucasus and 
the Caspian sea, where stands the small but strong city of Derbend, 
called by the Arabs, Bab-al-abuab, or the " Gate of gates," by the Turks, 
Demir-capi, or the " Gate of iron," and by the Persians, Derbend, or the 
" Barrier," between Georgia and the Persian province of Shir van. " The 
natives in general are of opinion," says P. H. Bruce, " that the city of 
Derbent was built by Alexander the Great, and that the long wall that 
reached to the Euxine, was built by his order, to prevent the incursions 
of the Scythians into Persia." Memoirs, p. 284. The wall is said to 
have been repaired by Yezdegerd II. of the Sassanian dynasty, who 
reigned about the middle of the fifth century, and again by Nushirvan, 
of the same family, who died in 579. 

The Lake of Geluchalat 39 

Tartars between two mountains. It is not correct, however, 
to call the people Tartars, which in those days the) - were not, 
but of a race named Cumani, 1 with a mixture of other nations. 
In this province there are many towns and castles ; the neces 
saries of life are in abundance; the country produces a great 
quantity of silk, and a manufacture is carried on of silk inter 
woven with gold. 2 Here are found vultures of a large size, of 
a species named avigi? The inhabitants in general gain their 
livelihood by trade and manual labour. The mountainous 
nature of the country, with its narrow and strong defiles, have 
prevented the Tartars from effecting the entire conquest of it. 
At a convent of monks dedicated to Saint Lunardo, the follow 
ing miraculous circumstances are said to take place. In a 
salt-water lake, four days journey in circuit, upon the border 
of which the church is situated, the fish never make their 
appearance until the first day of Lent, and from that time to 
Easter-eve they are found in vast abundance; but on Easter- 
day they are no longer to be seen, nor during the remainder of 
the year. It is called the lake of Geluchalat. 4 Into the before- 

1 The notices we have, respecting the people named Comani or Coma- 
nians, are in general obscure and vague. It appears, however, that in the 
thirteenth century they were the inhabitants of the countries lying on 
the north-western side of the Caspian, and extending from the Wolga 
towards the Euxine, who were afterwards subdued and supplanted by 
the Kapchak Tartars. " The Comans," says Gibbon, " were a Tartar 
or Turkman horde which encamped in the Xlth and XII th centuries 
on the verge of Moldavia. The greater part were pagans, but some 
were Mahometans, and the whole horde was converted to Christianity 
(A.D. 1370) by Lewis, king of Hungary." 

2 Some of the provinces of Georgia, as well as of Armenia and the 
adjoining parts of Persia, have in all ages been famous for the culture of 
the silk- worm and commerce in silk. 

1 1 know not what species of vulture is here meant, nor can we be cer 
tain of the correctness of the orthography of the word avigi. That the 
country is noted for birds of this class, appears from the writings of 
several travellers. When Chardin arrived in Mingrelia he found it neces 
sary to deceive the Turks by giving out that he was a merchant, whose 
object in visiting the country was to procure birds of prey for the Euro 
pean market. 

* Within the proper boundaries of Georgia I am unable to identify this 
large salt-water lake of Gelu-chalat. Upon an island in that near Erivan, 
which D Anville names Gheuk-sha ou Eau bleu, stands a very ancient 
monastery, which Chardin tells us was founded six hundred years before 
his time, or in the eleventh century, and must therefore have existed in 
our author s days; but on the other hand, its waters are described as 
being fresh and sweet, and it is separated from Georgia by a ridge of 
mountains. There is more reason for supposing it to be the lake now 
called Van or Wan, and formerly Arjish, although this lies still further 
within the boundary of Armenia. In its neighbourhood was situated a 
town of some celebrity, named Khalat and Akhlat. Its circumference is 
described by Abulfeda as being of four days* journey, and he says it is 
noted for a peculiar species of fish called tharnag, said to resemble the 

4-O Travels of Marco Polo 

mentioned sea of Abaku, which is encompassed with moun 
tains, the great rivers Herdil, 1 Geihon, Kur, and Araz, with 
many others, disembogue. The Genoese merchants have 
recently begun to navigate it, and they bring from thence the 
kind of silk called ghellie. 2 In this province there is a hand 
some city named Teflis, 3 around which are suburbs and many 
fortified posts. It is inhabited by Armenian and Georgian 
Christians, as well as by some Mahometans and Jews ; 4 but 
these last are in no great numbers. Manufactures of silks and 
of many other articles are carried on there. Its inhabitants 
are subjects of the great king of the Tartars. 5 Although we 
speak only of a few of the principal cities in each province, it 
is to be understood that there are many others, which it is 
unnecessary to particularise, unless they happened to contain 
something remarkable ; but should the occasion present itself, 
these will be hereafter described. Having spoken of the 
countries bordering on Armenia to the north, we shall now 
mention those which lie to the south and to the east. 

1 By the Arabians and Turks the name of Etol is given to the Wolga, 
and it is here corrupted to Herdil. This river, according to Ibn Haukal, 
comes from the countries of Russ and Bulgar, and at the season when its 
waters are collected, it is said to be greater than the river Jihun, rushing 
into the sea with such a body that it seems to conquer the waters of the 
Caspian. See Ouseley s translation, pp. 185 187. The names of Jihon or 
Oxus, Kur or Cyrus, and Araz or Araxes, do not require any particular 

2 The province of Ghilan (called also al-Ghil), on the Caspian, being 
famous for its trade in silk, we can scarcely doubt that this word ghellie 
or ghilli was a name given to the article on that account; as florentine, 
a species of silk, has (or may be presumed to have) its appellation from 
Florence. The red silk of Ghilan is mentioned by Niebuhr; and Elphin- 
stone, speaking of the trade of Caubul with Persia, says, " The imports 
are raw silk of Gheelaun and Resht, silken stuffs made at Yezd and Kas- 
haun." P. 295. 

8 For a particular account of the city of Teflis, the capital of Georgia 
see Chardin, p. 220, fo. with the Plate. Our author s route from Tabriz 
to Trebisond did not carry him to this city, and there is reason to con 
clude that what little he says of it is from the report of others. 

4 In Chardin s time this city contained fourteen churches, of which six 
belonged to the Georgian, and eight to the Armenian Christians. Being 
then subject to the Persian government, frequent attempts were made 
by the Mahometans to erect mosques, but without success ; the populace 
never failing to demolish the work. 

5 By the king of the (Moghul) Tartars must here be understood the 
descendant of Hulagu, who ruled over Persia and the neighbouring 
countries; not the grand khan. 

Christians of Mosul 41 



MOSUL is a large province 1 inhabited by various descriptions 
of people, one class of whom pay reverence to Mahomet, and 
are called Arabians. 2 The others profess the Christian faith, 
but not according to the canons of the church, which they 
depart from in many instances, and are denominated Nes- 
torians, Jacobites, and Armenians. They have a patriarch 
whom they call Jacolit, 3 and by him archbishops, bishops, and 
abbots are consecrated and sent to all parts of India, to Cairo, 
to Baldach (Baghdad), and to all places inhabited by Chris- 
tains ; in the same manner as by the pope of the Romish church. 
All those cloths of gold and of silk which we call muslins 4 are of 

1 The city of Mosul, or according to the Arabic pronunciation, Mausil, 
formerly the capital of Mesopotamia and now of the Turkish pashalik 
bearing its own name, stands upon the right or western bank of the Tigris, 
opposite to the site of the ancient Nineveh, with which it is connected by 
a bridge of boats. It is described by Abulfeda and all the oriental geo 
graphers as one of the most distinguished cities under the Mahometan 
government. Although our author terms it a province, he may be 
thought to describe it rather as a city ; but the district itself is called by 
the Arabians Diyar Mausil as well as Diyar al-Jezirah. 

2 The bulk of the population is at this day Arabian, and that language 
is the general medium of communication amongst the inhabitants, what 
ever their national origin or religion may be. 

3 This word, in some editions written J acolich, presents a striking 
example of the degree of corruption our author s text has unfortunately 
experienced, being no other than the title of Catholicos, by which the 
patriarchs of the Greek church in Georgia and Armenia are distinguished. 
The extent of their jurisdiction I am unable to ascertain, but suppose it 
embraces all the communities of the same sect, wherever situated. The 
Catholicos or Patriarch of Georgia, who was at the same time brother to 
the Mahometan prince of the country, is mentioned by Chardin. 

4 The origin of the word " muslin," in French, " mousseline," and in 
Italian (from whence the others are borrowed), " mussolo e mussolino, 
sorta di tela bambagina, cosi detta dal nome del paese dove per lo piii si 
fabbrica," is here satisfactorily pointed out; but our author, if his editors 
have not misrepresented his meaning, includes under that denomination 
articles of a nature very different from that to which we apply the name. 
It is not, however, improbable that the city of Mosul, being at this time 
one of the greatest entrepots of eastern commerce, and also itself a place 
of considerable manufacture, may have given the appellation to various 
productions of the loom conveyed from thence to the Mediterranean, 
although in later days the word mussolino has been exclusively applied 
to the well-known Indian fabric or its imitations. When Ives, in the 
account of his journey, tells us that " this city s manufacture is mussolen 

42 Travels of Marco Polo 

the manufacture of Mosul, and all the great merchants termed 
Mossulini, who convey spices and drugs, in large quantities, 
from one country to another, are from this province. In the 
mountainous parts there is a race of people named Kurds, 
some of whom are Christians of the Nestorian and Jacobite 
sects, and others Mahometans. They are all an unprincipled 
people, whose occupation it is to rob the merchants. 1 In the 
vicinity of this province there are places named Mus and 
Maredin, 2 where cotton is produced in great abundance, of 
which they prepare the cloths called boccasini, and many other 
fabrics. The inhabitants are manufacturers and traders, and 
are all subjects of the king of the Tartars. We shall now 
speak of the city of Baldach. 



BALDACH is a large city, heretofore the residence of the khalif 3 
or pontiff of all the Saracens, as the pope is of all Christians. 

(a cotton cloth), which they make very strong and pretty fine, and sell 
for the European and other markets," it is evident that he does not de 
scribe a cloth of the delicate or flimsy texture that we call muslin, but 
rather the kind that with us has acquired the name of calico, from the 
city of Calicut in the East Indies. 

1 Kurdistan, which formed the northern part of the ancient Assyria, 
is a mountainous region to the eastward of the Tigris, and immediately 
at the back of Mosul, Nisibin, and Maredin. The inhabitants for the 
most part speak a corrupt dialect of Persian, but in their habits and 
manners resemble the Bedouin Arabs, and like them make a practice 
of robbing the caravans when not adequately protected. Cartwright 
terms them " a most thievish people; " and the accounts of all subse 
quent travellers agree in describing them as systematical plunderers: a 
state of society that results from their local situation, being that of a 
mountainous tract which must necessarily be traversed in passing from 
one rich country to another. The principal articles of commerce in this 
country appear to be gall-nuts, cotton, and a species of silk called kas or 
ks, described by Niebuhr as growing on trees. Voyage, torn. ii. p. 268. 

2 For an account of Maredin, a city of Mesopotamia, in the district of 
Diyar-Rabiah, see the Voyage par Niebuhr. He speaks of its manu 
factures of flax and cotton. Mush is a town on the borders of Kurdistan 
and Armenia, between Bedlis and the Euphrates in the upper part of its 

3 The city of Baghdad was built by Abu Jafar al-Mansur, second khalif 

The City of Baldach 43 

A great river flows through the midst of it, 1 by means of which 
the merchants transport their goods to and from the sea of 
India; the distance being computed at seventeen days navi 
gation, in consequence of the windings of its Bourse. Those 
who undertake the voyage, after leaving the river, touch at a 
place named Kisi, 2 from whence they proceed to sea: but pre 
viously to their reaching this anchorage they pass a city named 
Balsara, 3 in the vicinity of which are groves of palm-trees pro 
ducing the best dates in the world. In Baldach there is a 
manufacture of silks wrought with gold, and also of damasks, 
as well as of velvets ornamented with the figures of birds and 
beasts. 4 Almost all the pearls brought to Europe from India 
have undergone the process of boring, at this place. The 
Mahometan law is here regularly studied, as are also magic, 

geomancy, and physiognomy. It is the 

noblest and most extensive city to be found in this part of the 

of the Abbassite dynasty, about the year 765, and continued to be the 
residence of his successors until the death of the last khalif of that race, 
in the year 1258, when it fell under the dominion of the Moghuls. 

1 This river is the Tigris, named Dijleh by the Arabs, which falls into 
the Euphrates, when their united streams acquire the appellation of 
Shat-al-arab, and discharge themselves into the Persian Gulf. The 
modern city of Baghdad stands on the eastern bank, and is connected 
with the suburb on the western side of the river by a bridge of boats ; but 
on that side there are also found the ruins of buildings that belonged to 
the ancient city or seat of the khalifs ; and our author is therefore correct 
in describing it as divided by the river in his time. Abulfeda speaks of 
it as occupying both banks of the Tigris. 

2 Kisi, or Chisi in the Italian orthography, is a small island on the 
eastern side of the Gulf of Persia, named Kis or Ks, to which the trade 
of Siraf, a port on the neighbouring continent, much celebrated by 
eastern geographers, was transferred; in consequence, as it may be pre 
sumed, of wars in that quarter, and of injuries sustained by the mer 
chants. The exact situation of the latter is not now pointed out by any 

3 Balsara, more commonly written Balsora, but properly Basrah, is a 
city of great commercial importance, situated on the south-west side of 
the Shat-al-arab, about half-way between the point where the Euphrates 
and Tigris unite their streams, and the Persian Gulf. It lies, conse 
quently, in the way (as our author remarks) of those who navigate from 
Baghdad to the island of Kis. 

4 It may be suspected that instead of " velluti " (velvets), we should 
here read " tappeti " (carpets), for the manufacture of which Persia has 
always been celebrated. With respect to the figures of animals, the 
Mahometans of the Shiah sect have never been strict, as those of the 
Sunni are known to be, in prohibiting the representation of them in their 
ornamental works, 

44 Travels of Marco Polo 



THE above-mentioned khalif, who is understood to have 
amassed greater treasures than had ever been possessed by any 
other sovereign, perished miserably under the following cir 
cumstances. 1 At the period when the Tartar princes began 
to extend their dominion, there were amongst them four 
brothers, of whom the eldest, named Mangu, reigned in the 
royal seat of the family. Having subdued the country of 
Cathay, and other districts in that quarter, they were not 
satisfied, but coveting further territory, they conceived the 
idea of universal empire, and proposed that they should 
divide the world amongst them. With this object in view, it 
was agreed that one of them should proceed to the east, that 
another should make conquests in the south, and that the 
other two should direct their operations against the remaining 
quarters. The southern portion fell to the lot of Ulau, who 
assembled a vast army, and having subdued the provinces 
through which his route lay, proceeded in the year 1255 to 
the attack of this city of Baldach. 2 Being aware, however, of 
its great strength and the prodigious number of its inhabi 
tants, he trusted rather to stratagem than to force for its re 
duction, and in order to deceive the enemy with regard to the 
number of his troops, which consisted of a hundred thousand 
horse, besides foot soldiers, he posted one division of his army 
on the one side, another division on the other side of the ap 
proach to the city, in such a manner as to be concealed by a 

1 Mostasem Billah, the last of the Abbassite khalifs of Baghdad, began 
to reign in 1242, and was put to death in 1258. His character was that 
of a weak, indolent, voluptuous, and at the same time avaricious prince, 
who neglected the duties of his government, and committed them to the 
hands of a wicked minister, by whom he was at length betrayed to his 
mortal enemy. 

2 This date is given in the early Latin text. Marsden has 1250; but 
he observes that according to the most accurate oriental historians, it 
was not until the year 1255 that Hulagu (whom Haiton calls Haolanus 
or Haolo, P. Gaubil Holayou, and our author Ula-u) crossed the Oxus. 
In 1256 he required Mostasem to assist him in the reduction of the 
Ismaelians, and in 1258 obtained possession of Baghdad. P. Gaubil, upon 
the authority of the Chinese annals, places this event in 1257. 

Baldach Captured by the Tartars 45 

wood, and placing himself at the head of the third, advanced 
boldly to within a short distance of the gate. The khalif 
made light of a force apparently so inconsiderable, and confi 
dent in the efficacy of the usual Mahometan ejaculation, 
thought of nothing less than its entire destruction, and for 
that purpose marched out of the city with his guards; but 
as soon as Ulau perceived his approach, he feigned to retreat 
before him, until by this means he had drawn him beyond 
the wood where the other divisions were posted. By the 
closing of these from both sides, the army of the khalif was 
surrounded and broken, himself was made prisoner, and the 
city surrendered to the conquerer. Upon entering it, Ulau 
discovered, to his great astonishment, a tower filled with 
gold. He called the khalif before him, and after reproach 
ing him with his avarice, that prevented him from employing 
his treasures in the formation of an army for the defence of 
his capital against the powerful invasion with which it had 
long been threatened, gave orders for his being shut up in 
this same tower, without sustenance ; and there, in the midst 
of his wealth, be soon finished a miserable existence. 

I judge that our Lord Jesus Christ herein thought proper 
to avenge the wrongs of his faithful Christians, so abhorred 
by this khalif. From the time of his accession in 1225, his 
daily thoughts were employed on the means of converting to 
his religion those who resided within his dominions, or, upon 
their refusal, in forming pretences for putting them to death. 
Consulting with his learned men for this purpose, they dis 
covered a passage in the Gospel where it is said: " If ye have 
faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this moun 
tain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove/ 
(upon prayer to that effect addressed to the Divine Majesty); 
and being rejoiced at the discovery, persuaded as he was that 
the thing was utterly impossible, he gave orders for assem 
bling all the Nestorian and Jacobite Christians who dwelt in 
Baghdad, and who were very numerous. To these the ques 
tion was propounded, whether they believed all that is 
asserted in the text of their Gospel to be true, or not. They 
made answer that it was true. " Then/ said the khalif, 
" if it be true, let us see which of you will give the proof of his 
faith; for certainly if there is not to be found one amongst you 
who possesses even so small a portion of faith in his Lord, as 
to be equal to a grain of mustard, I shall be justified in re 
garding you, henceforth, as a wicked, reprobate, and faithless 

46 Travels of Marco Polo 

people. I allow you therefore ten days, before the expiration 
of which you must either, through the power of Him whom 
you worship, remove the mountain now before you, or em 
brace the law of our prophet; in either of which cases you will 
be safe ; but otherwise you must all expect to suffer the most 
cruel deaths." The Christians, acquainted as they were with 
his merciless disposition, as well as his eagerness to despoil 
them of their property, upon hearing these words, trembled 
for their lives; but nevertheless, having confidence in their 
Redeemer, that He would deliver them from their peril, they 
held an assembly and deliberated on the course they ought to 
take. None other presented itself than that of imploring the 
Divine Being to grant them the aid of his mercy. To obtain 
this, every individual, great and small, prostrated himself 
night and day upon the earth, shedding tears profusely, and 
attending to no other occupation than that of prayer to the 
Lord. When they had thus persevered during eight days, a 
divine revelation came at length, in a dream, to a bishop of 
exemplary life, directing him to proceed in search of a certain 
shoemaker (whose name is not known) having only one eye, 
whom he should summon to the mountain, as a person capable 
of effecting its removal, through the divine grace. Having 
found the shoemaker and made him acquainted with the 
revelation, he replied that he did not feel himself worthy of 
the undertaking, his merits not being such as to entitle him 
to the reward of such abundant grace. Importuned, however, 
by the poor terrified Christians, he at length assented. It 
should be understood that he was a man of strict morals and 
pious conversation, having his mind pure and faithful to his 
God, regularly attending the celebration of the mass and other 
divine offices, fervent in works of charity, and rigid in the 
observance of fasts. It once happened to him, that a hand 
some young woman who came to his shop in order to be fitted 
with a pair of slippers, in presenting her foot, accidentally 
exposed a part of her leg, the beauty of which excited in 
him a momentary concupiscence; but recollecting himself, he 
presently dismissed her, and calling to mind the words of the 
Gospel, where it is said, " If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out 
and cast it from thee ; for it is better to enter the kingdom of 
God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell 
fire," he immediately, with an instrument of his trade, scooped 
out his right eye ; evincing by that act, beyond all doubt, the 
excellence of his faith. 

The Christians Saved Miraculously 47 

The appointed day being arrived, divine service was per 
formed at an early hour, and a solemn procession was made 
to the plain where the mountain stood, the holy cross being 
borne in front. The khalif likewise, in the conviction of its 
proving a vain ceremony on the part of the Christians, chose 
to be present, accompanied by a number of his guards, for 
the purposing of destroying them in the event of failure. Here 
the pious artisan, kneeling before the cross, and lifting up his 
hands to heaven, humbly besought his Creator that he would 
compassionately look down upon earth, and for the glory and 
excellence of his name, as well as for the support and confirma 
tion of the Christian faith, would lend assistance to his people 
in the accomplishment of the task imposed upon them, and 
thus manifest his power to the revilers of his law. Having 
concluded his prayer, he cried with a loud voice: " In the 
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I command thee, 
mountain, to remove thyself ! Upon these words being 
uttered, the mountain moved, and the earth at the same time 
trembled in a wonderful and alarming manner. The khalif 
and all those by whom he was surrounded, were struck with 
terror, and remained in a state of stupefaction. Many of the 
latter became Christians, and even the khalif secretly em 
braced Christianity, always wearing a cross concealed under 
his garment, which after his death was found upon him; and 
on this account it was that they did not entomb him in the 
shrine of his predecessors. In commemoration of this singu 
lar grace bestowed upon them by God, all the Christians, 
Nestorians, and Jacobites, from that time forth have continued 
to celebrate in a solemn manner the return of the day on 
which the miracle took place; keeping a fast also on the vigil. 1 



TAURIS is a large and very noble city belonging to the pro 
vince of Irak, which contains many other cities and fortified 

1 The pretended miracle is here more minutely detailed than in other 

versions, and the Latin text states it to have taken place at Tauris, and 

not at Baghdad, although that would have been inconsistent with the 

presence of the khalif. [The early Latin text says it occurred in 1275, 

inter Baldach et Mesul; " and the French text agrees with it.] 

4 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

places, but this is the most eminent and most populous. 1 The 
inhabitants support themselves principally by commerce and 
manufactures, which latter consist of various kinds of silk, 
some of them interwoven with gold, and of high price. It is 
so advantageously situated for trade, that merchants from 
India, from Baldach, Mosul, Cremessor, 2 as well as from dif 
ferent parts of Europe, resort thither to purchase and to sell 
a number of articles. Precious stones and pearls in abun 
dance may be procured at this place. 8 The merchants con 
cerned in foreign commerce acquire considerable wealth, but 
the inhabitants in general are poor. They consist of a mixture 
of various nations and sects, Nestorians, Armenians, Jacobites, 
Georgians, Persians, and the followers of Mahomet, who form 
the bulk of the population, and are those properly called 
Taurisians. 4 Each description of people have their peculiar 
language. The city is surrounded with delightful gardens, 
producing the finest fruits. 5 The Mahometan inhabitants are 
treacherous and unprincipled. According to their doctrine, 
whatever is stolen or plundered from others of a different 
faith, is properly taken, and the theft is no crime ; whilst 
those who suffer death or injury by the hands of Christians, 
are considered as martyrs. If, therefore, they were not pro- 

1 The city of Tauris, by the Persians and other orientals named Tabriz, 
is situated in the province of Aderbijan, which borders on that of Al- 
Jebal, or the Persian Irak, and formed with it the ancient kingdom of 
Media. It has been, at all periods, a place of great importance. Upon 
the conquest of Persia by the Moghuls, about the year 1255, it became 
the principal residence of Hulagu and his descendants, until the found 
ing of Sultaniyah, in the beginning of the fourteenth century. 

2 Cremessor, otherwise written Cremosor, Cormosa, Cremos, and 
Cormos, is no other than the famous city of Ormuz or Honnuz, by the 
ancients called Harmuza, at the entrance of the Persian Gulf; of which 
there will be occasion to speak more particularly hereafter. Baldach, 
we have already seen, is the city of Baghdad. 

3 Chardin mentions a particular bazaar (" le plus beau de tous ") for 
the sale of jewels, and other articles of extraordinary value. The pearls, 
both from the fisheries of Ceylon, and from Bahrein in the Gulf of Persia, 
appear to have been conveyed in the first instance to Baghdad, where 
they were polished and bored, and from thence to the other markets of 
Asia and Europe, and particularly to Constantinople. 

4 These Persians, as distinguished from the Mahometans, must have 
been the original inhabitants of Farsistan, who retained the ancient 
religion of Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, the characteristic of which was the 
worship of fire, and whom (in their modern state of expatriation) we 
term Parsis. They constitute at this time the most wealthy, as well as 
the most ingenious class of native inhabitants, living under the English 
protection at Bombay. 

6 Abulfeda praises its gardens ; and the abundance and variety of its 
fruits are noticed by Chardin. 

The Monastery of Saint Barsamo 49 

nibited and restrained by the powers who now govern them, 1 
they would commit many outrages. These principles are 
common to all the Saracens. When they are at the point of 
death, their priest attends upon them, and asks whether they 
believe that Mahomet was the true apostle of God. If their 
answer be that they do believe, their salvation is assured to 
them; and in consequence of this facility of absolution, which 
gives free scope to the perpetration of everything flagitious, 
they have succeeded in converting to their faith a great pro 
portion of the Tartars, who consider it as relieving them from 
restraint in the commission of crimes. From Tauris to Persia 
is twelve days journey. 2 



NOT far from Tauris is a monastery that takes its name from 
the holy saint Barsamo, 3 and is eminent for devotion. There 
is here an abbot and many monks, who resemble the order 
of Carmelites in the fashion of their dress. That they may 
not lead a life of idleness, they employ themselves continually 
in the weaving of woollen girdles, which they place upon the 
altar of their saint during the celebration of divine service, 
and when they make the circuit of the provinces, soliciting 
alms (in the same manner as do the brethren of the order of 
the Holy Ghost), they present these girdles to their friends 
and to persons of distinction; being esteemed good for rheu 
matic pains, on which account they are devoutly sought for 
by all ranks. 

1 That is, by their new lords, the Moghul Tartars. 

2 This must be understood of Persia Proper, Pars or Farsistan, of 
which Persepolis was the ancient capital, as Shiraz is the modern; but 
he probably means the distance from Tauris to Kasbin, which he speaks 
of in the next chapter as the first city upon entering Persia. 

This saint is no doubt St. Barsimaeus, bishop of Edessa in the second 

50 Travels of Marco Polo 



PERSIA was anciently a large and noble province, but it is 
now a great part destroyed by the Tartars. In Persia there 
is a city which is called Saba, from whence were the three 
magi who came to adore Christ in Bethlehem; and the three 
are buried in that city in a fair sepulchre, and they are all 
three entire with their beards and hair. One was called Bal- 
dasar, the second Caspar, and the third Melchior. Marco 
inquired often in that city concerning the three magi, and 
nobody could tell him anything about them, except that the 
three magi were buried there in ancient times. After three 
days journey you come to a castle which is called Palasata, 
which means the castle of the fire- worshippers ; and it is true 
that the inhabitants of that castle worship fire, and this 
is given as the reason. The men of that castle say, that 
anciently three kings of that country went to adore a certain 
king who was newly born, and carried with them three offer 
ings, namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh: gold, that they 
might know if he were an earthly king; frankincense, that 
they might know if he were God; and myrrh, that they 
might know if he were a mortal man. When these magi 
were presented to Christ, the youngest of the three adored 
him first, and it appeared to him that Christ was of his 
stature and age. The middle one came next, and then the 
eldest, and to each he seemed to be of their own stature and 
age. Having compared their observations together, they 
agreed to go all to worship at once, and then he appeared to 
them all of his true age. When they went away, the infant 
gave them a closed box, which they carried with them for 
several days, and then becoming curious to see what he had 
given them, they opened the box and found in it a stone, 
which was intended for a sign that they should remain as 
firm as a stone in the faith they had received from him. When, 
however, they saw the stone, they marvelled, and thinking 
themselves deluded, they threw the stone into a certain pit, 
and instantly fire burst forth in the pit. When they saw this, 
they repented bitterly of what they had done, and taking 
some of the fire with them they carried it home. And having 

Province of Persia 5 1 

placed it in one of their churches, they keep it continually 
burning, and adore that fire as a god, and make all their 
sacrifices with it; and if it happen to be extinguished, they 
go for more to the original fire in the pit where they threw the 
stone, which is never extinguished, and they take of none other 
fire. And therefore the people of that country worship fire. 
Marco war told all this by the people of the country; and it 
is true that one of those kings was of Saba, and the second 
was of Dyava, and the third was of the castle. 1 Now we will 
treat of the people of Persia and of their customs. 



IN Persia, which is a large province, there are eight kingdoms, 2 
the names of which are as follows : The first which you meet 
with upon entering the country is Kasibin; 3 the second, 

1 This story of the magi is no doubt of Eastern origin, as it does not 
coincide with the Western legends. In other manuscripts the name is 
written Kalasata-perinsta. The idea of a well ignited by celestial fire is 
obviously founded on the existence of burning wells or caverns in various 
parts of Asia, particularly at Baku, near the Caspian, and on the coast 
of Karamania, seen by Capt. Beaufort; but to the Persian scholar the 
name of the place will present the strongest criterion of veracity, as he 
must perceive that the words Kala sata-perinsta are intended for Kalat 
perestan, or perhaps Kalah atish perestan, literally, the " Castle of the 
fire- worshippers." The name of Saba, which is certainly not to be dis 
covered among the towns of Persia, may be thought to have a reference 
to the doctrines of Sabai sm, so nearly connected with those of the Guebers. 

2 In the ordinary use of these terms, a kingdom is understood to con 
sist of provinces; but upon the partition of the immense empire inherited 
by the descendants of Jengiz-khan, the province assigned (as a fief) to 
each of his sons or grandsons comprehend what were, before his con 
quests, independent kingdoms. 

8 Upon entering Persian Irak from the side of Tauris, the first great 
city (Sultaniyah not being then built) is Kasbin, or more properly Kazvin, 
which has at different periods of its history been a royal residence. In 
the enumeration of these eight kingdoms, our author sometimes gives 
the name of the capital, as in this instance, and sometimes that of the 
province or district, as in those which immediately follow. He seems to 
have written down or dictated the names as they occurred to his recollec 
tion, without system, and with little regard to arrangement. 

52 Travels of Marco Polo 

lying towards the south (west), is Kurdistan; 1 the third is 
Lor; 2 towards the north, the fourth is Suolistan; 3 the fifth, 
Spaan; 4 the sixth, Siras; 5 the seventh, Soncara; 6 the eighth, 
Timocain, 7 which is at the extremity of Persia. All these 
kingdoms lie to the south, excepting Timocain, and this is to 

1 We should not have expected to find Kurdistan, which belonged to 
the ancient Assyria, stated as one of the component parts of Persia, 
although many parts of it have at times been brought under subjection 
to that monarchy; nor, if included, can it be said to lie to the south. 
It may, indeed, be conjectured that Khuristan (often written Khuzistan), 
the ancient Susiana, situated at the head of the Persian gulf, and conse 
quently south from Kazvin, and not Kurdistan, which lies to the west, 
is the district intended. Churestan, ait Ol Muschtarek, etiam Chuzes- 
tan appellatur. Est ampla provincia, multas urbes tenens, inter Al 
Basram et Persiam." Abulfedae Geographia. 

2 If the former place be meant for Khuristan, Lor or Lur may with 
propriety be said to lie to the north of it, although with respect to Kazvin, 
and Persia in general, it is a southern province. " II ne faut pas con- 
fondre," says D Herbelot, " le pays de Lor avec celui de Lar ou Laristan, 
qui s etend le long du gulfe Persique. Celui de Lor ou Lour est mon- 
tagneux, et dependoit autrefois de la province nominee Kouzistan, qui 
est 1 ancienne Susiane." Biblioth. Orient. 

8 Of Suolistan it would be difficult to form any conjecture; but finding 
the name, in other versions, written Cielstam, Ciliestam, and in the early 
Italian epitome, Ciestan, I have little doubt of its being intended for 
Sejestan, also written Siyestan, a province which lies in the eastern 
quarter of Persia. 

4 The city of Spaan, Spahan, or Ispahan, by the Arabians called 
Isfahan, situated in the southern part of Persian Irak, is well known as 
the magnificent capital of the kings of the Sefi family, which, especially 
during the reign of Shah Abbas II., exceeded in splendour, as well as 
extent, most Asiatic cities. It fell under the dominion of the Moghuls 
in 1 22 1, and was taken, plundered, and nearly destroyed by Tamerlane 
in 1387. 

Shiraz, the capital of Pars or Persia proper, and, at some periods, of 
the Persian empire, is also too well known, by the description of travellers, 
to render it necessary to say more here than that it ranks next to Ispahan 
amongst the royal cities. 

6 This much corrupted name, which is Soncara in Ramusio s text, 
Socham in that of the Basle edition, Sontara in the earlier Latin, Concara 
in the B. M., and Soncara (according to Miiller) in the Berlin manuscript, 
Corcata in the Italian epitomes, and Corchara in the old English version, 
is the Korkan or Gurkan of eastern geographers, and evidently connected 
with the Hyrcania of the ancients. Its situation is at the south-eastern 
extremity of the Caspian, north of the Damaghan range and of the pro 
vince of Kumis or Comisene. 

7 However distant the resemblance of the names may be thought, 
Timocain (which in the Basle edition is Tymochaim, and in the older 
Latin, Thymachaym) is undoubtedly intended for Damaghan, the capital 
of the small province of Kumis, in the north-eastern quarter of Persia. 
By Josaphat Barbaro, the Venetian ambassador to that court, it is called 
Tremigan ; and by our countryman, Thomas Herbert, Diurgument : but 
this, we find, was not his own corruption; for in one of the letters of 
Pietro della Valle, he complains of this abuse and uncertainty in the 
names of places: " Come per essempio, quel Diargument, che I Epitome 
Geografica dice esser nome moderno dell Hircania." 

Products of Persia 


the north,, near the place called Arbor Secco. 1 The country 
is distinguished for its excellent breed of horses, many of which 
are carried for sale to India, and bring high prices, not less in 
general than two hundred livres tournois. 2 It produces also 
the largest and handsomest breed of asses in the world, which 
sell (on the spot) at higher prices than the horses, because they 
are more easily fed, are capable of carrying heavier burthens, 
and travel further in the day than either horses or mules, 
which cannot support an equal degree of fatigue. The 
merchants, therefore, who in travelling from one province to 
another are obliged to pass extensive deserts and tracts of sand, 
where no kind of herbage is to be met with, and where, on ac 
count of the distance between the wells or other watering 
places, it is necessary to make long journeys in the course of 
the day, are desirous of providing themselves with asses in 
preference, as they get sooner over the ground and require a 
smaller allowance of food. Camels also are employed here, 
and these in like manner carry great weights and are main 
tained at little cost, but they are not so swift as the asses. 
The traders of these parts convey the horses to Kisi, 3 to 
Ormus, and to other places on the coast of the Indian sea, 
where they are purchased by those who carry them to India. 
In consequence, however, of the greater heat of that country, 
they do not last many years, being natives of a temperate 
climate. In some of these districts, the people are savage and 
bloodthirsty, making a common practice of wounding and 
murdering each other. They would not refrain from doing 
injury to the merchants and travellers, were they not in terror 
of the eastern Tartars, 4 who cause them to be severely 
punished. A regulation is also established, that in all roads 
where danger is apprehended, the inhabitants shall be obliged, 

1 The district to which the appellation of Arbor Secco was given has 
already been adverted to, and will be found more particularly mentioned 
in a subsequent chapter. 

2 The excellence of the Persian horses, for which they may perhaps be 
indebted to the mixture of the Arabian and the Turki breed, is well 
known. A detailed account of their qualities is given by Chardin (torn, 
ii. chap. viii. p. 25, 4to) ; and also by Malcolm (Hist, of Persia, vol. ii. 
p. 516). As the livre tournois, in the fourteenth century, was at the pro 
portionate value of twenty-five to one livre of the present times, it 
follows that the price at which the Persian horse sold in India was from 
fifteen hundred to two thousand rupees. 

3 Kisi or Chisi has been shown (p. 43, note,) to be the island of Kis or 
Kes, to which the trade of Siraf, in the Persian gulf, was removed. Of 
the celebrated port of Ormuz, there will be occasion to speak hereafter. 

* By the eastern Tartars are meant the Moghul Tartars, who 
entered Persia from the eastern side of the Caspian. 

54 Travels of Marco Polo 

upon the requisition of the merchants, to provide active and 
trusty conductors for their guidance and security, between 
one district and another; who are to be paid at the rate of two 
or three groats l for each loaded beast, according to the dis 
tance. They are all followers of the Mahometan religion. 
In the cities, however, there are merchants and numerous 
artisans, who manufacture a variety of stuffs of silk and gold. 2 
Cotton grows abundantly in this country, as do wheat, barley, 3 
millet, and several other sorts of grain; together with grapes 
and every species of fruit. Should any one assert that the 
Saracens do not drink wine, being forbidden by their law, 
it may be answered that they quiet their consciences on 
this point by persuading themselves that if they take the 
precaution of boiling it over the fire, by which it is partly 
consumed and becomes sweet, they may drink it without 
infringing the commandment; for having changed its taste, 
they change its name, and no longer call it wine, although it is 
such in fact. 4 

1 The Italian grossi, or groats, were a small silver coin, which have 
differed in weight and value at different periods. 

2 " Je ne parlerai point," says Chardin, " d une infinite de sortes 
d etoffes de soye pure, ni des etoffes de soye avec du coton. . . . Je 
ne parlerai que de leurs brocards. Us appellent le brocard Zerbafe, 
c est-a-dire, tissure d or. . . . II ne se fait point d etoffe si chere par 
tout le monde." (torn. ii. p. 86, 4to.) Pottinger, speaking of the manu 
factures of Kashan, says: " Its staples are copper-ware, carpets, and 
coloured and flowered silks, which latter are exquisitely beautiful. I 
purchased some of them made in scarfs, in imitation of the richest Kash- 
meer shawls." Travels in Beloochistan, p. 244. 

3 Wheat grows in the northern provinces of Persia, and also in the 
southern, although less commonly. " Barley," says Malcolm, " is often 
sold in Persia at one farthing per pound, and wheat is not on the average 
more than a third of the price dearer than barley." Hist, of Persia, vol. 

ii. p. 5*9- 

4 The practice of boiling wine is known to be common amongst the 
eastern people, but whether the motive for it here assigned be the true 
one, or whether we should not rather conclude that they prefer the taste, 
may be doubted. The Persians have always been less strict than the 
other more orthodox Mahometans, in regard to indulgence in wine; and 
Pietro della Valle mentions two ordinances of Shah Abbas; the one for 
bidding the use of it, which shows that the religious precept had failed 
of its effect; and a second annulling the prohibition, upon his finding 
that the people, and especially the soldiers, had substituted for wine a 
liquid preparation of opium, by which their health was injured. 

The City of Yasdi 55 



YASDI is a considerable city on the confines of Persia, where 
there is much traffic. 1 A species of cloth of silk and gold 
manufactured there is known by the appellation of Yasdi, 
and is carried from thence by the merchants to all parts of 
the world. 2 Its inhabitants are of the Mahometan religion. 
Those who travel from that city, employ eight days in passing 
over a plain, in the course of which they meet with only three 
places that afford accommodation. 3 The road lies through 
extensive groves of the date-bearing palm, in which there 
is abundance of game, as well beasts as partridges and quails; 
and those travellers who are fond of the amusements of the 
chase, may here enjoy excellent sport. Wild asses 4 are like 
wise to be met with, very numerous and handsome. At the 
end of eight days you arrive at a kingdom named Kierman. 5 

1 Yezd is the most eastern city of the province of Fars or Persia Proper. 
Captain Christie, by whom it was visited in 1810, describes it as " a very 
large and populous city, situated on the edge of a sandy desert, contigu 
ous to a range of mountains running east and west." " It is celebrated," 
he observes, " by all merchants, for the protection afforded to speculators, 
and the security of its inhabitants and their property. It is the grand 
mart between Hindoostan, Khorasan, Bagdad, and Persia, and is said 
to be a place of greater trade than any other in the latter empire." 
Trav. in Beloochistan, App. p. 421. 

2 D Herbelot observes that " les etoffes de soye qu on y travaille, et 
que Ton appelle en Turc et en Persan comasche Yezdi, la rendent fort 
marchande." In the Memoirs of Abdulkurrim, also, we read of a dona 
tion made to an ambassador, by Nadir Shah, consisting of twenty-five 
pieces of Yezdy brocade. 

1 This is usually named the Desert of Kirman. 

* We read of wild asses delivered as presents, and consequently as 
curiosities, to Shah Abbas, and other kings of Persia. Rennell observes 
that " the wild asses remarked by Xenophon for their swiftness, bear 
much the same character at present. Texeira in 1606 saw herds of them 
in the Arabian desert, immediately opposite to the desert of Mesopotamia, 
where Xenophon saw them." Illustrations, p. 100. 

6 The distance between Yezd and the capital of Kirman is about one 
hundred and sixty geographical miles, which would be at the rate of 
twenty miles per day. But the average travelling rate of a light cara 
van, as deduced by Major Rennell, is only fifteen to fifteen and a half, 
with camels, or seventeen to eighteen with mules; when on long journeys. 
It may, indeed, be understood that the desert alone, exclusive of some 
portion of cultivated country, employed eight days. Some of the manu 
scripts have seven days. 

Travels of Marco Polo 



KIERMAN is a kingdom on the eastern confines of Persia/ 
which was formerly governed by its own monarchs, in here 
ditary succession; but since the Tartars have brought it under 
their dominion, they appoint governors to it at their pleasure. 
In the mountains of this country are found the precious 
stones that we call turquoises. 2 There are also veins of 
steel 3 and of antimony 4 in large quantities. They manu 
facture here in great perfection all the articles necessary for 

1 Kirman is a province of Persia, situated at the south-eastern ex 
tremity of that kingdom. Its capital city appears to be most usually 
called by the same name, but is also known by that of Sirgan, as the word 
is pronounced by the Persians, or Sir j an, as pronounced by the Arabs. 
" The city of Kirman," says Pottinger, " is situated on the western side 
of a capacious plain, so close to the mountains, that two of them, on 
which there are ancient decayed forts, completely command it. It was 
once the most flourishing in Persia, and in size was second to none, except 
the capital, Isfahan. . . . No city in the East has been more subject 
to reverses of fortune, or oftener the scene of the most destructive wars, 
both foreign and domestic, than Kirman." P. 222. It would seem 
that our author did not consider Kirman as being, in his time, an integral 
part of Persia, from his not including it amongst the eight provinces or 
kingdoms which he enumerates; and in this light also it was held by 
Edrisi, who wrote in the twelfth century, and says, " Et vero terra Kar- 
man interjacet terra3 Persia et terrae Mecran." P. 129. 

* " La plus riche mine de Perse," says Chardin, " est celle des tur 
quoises. On en a en deux endroits, a Nichapour en Carasson, et dans 
une montagne qui est entre I Hyrcanie et la Parthide, a quatre journees 
de la Mer Caspienne, nominee Phirous-cou." Tom. ii. p. 24, 4to. " In 
these mountains," says Malcolm, speaking of Nishapore, " the Ferouzah 
or turquoise stone is found." Hist, of Persia, vol. ii. p. 220, note. 

3 " Les mines de fer," says Chardin, " sont dans I Hyrcanie, dans la 
Medie septentrionale, au pai s des Parthes, et dans la Bactriane. Les 
mines d acier se trouvent dans les memes pai s, et y produisent beau- 
coup." p. 23. He then proceeds to describe its particular qualities, 
and to compare it with the steel of India. 

4 The word " andanico " of Ramusio s text, or " andanicum " of the 
Basle edition, is not to be found in any dictionary? nor have preceding 
translators attempted to render it by any corresponding term, but have 
let the word stand as they found it in their copy. I should not, from any 
resemblance of sound, have hazarded the conjecture of its being intended 
for " antimonio; " but learning from the travels of Chardin that anti 
mony is the produce of countries on the eastern side of Persia, of which 
our author here speaks, I consider the probability of such a corrup 
tion as having some weight. 

The Kingdom of Kierman 57 

warlike equipment, such as saddles, bridles,, spurs, swords, 
bows, quivers, and every kind of arms in use amongst these 
people. The women and young persons work with the needle, 
in embroideries of silk and gold, in a variety of colours and 
patterns, representing birds and beasts, with other ornamental 
devices. 1 These are designed for the curtains, coverlets, and 
cushions of the sleeping places of the rich; and the work is 
executed with so much taste and skill as to be an object of 
admiration. In the mountainous parts are bred the best 
falcons that anywhere take wing. They are smaller than the 
peregrine falcon; reddish about the breast, belly, and under 
the tail; and their flight is so swift that no bird can escape 
them. Upon leaving Kierman, you travel for seven days 
along a plain, by a pleasant road, and rendered still more de 
lightful by the abundance of partridges and other game. 2 
You also meet frequently with towns and castles, as well as 
scattered habitations; until at length you arrive at a moun- N 
tain whence there is a considerable descent, which occupies 
two days. Fruit trees are found there in great numbers ; the 
district having formerly been peopled, though at present with 
out inhabitants, except herdsmen alone, who are seen attend 
ing the pasturing of their cattle. In that part of the country 
which you pass before you reach the descent, the cold is so 
severe that a man can with difficulty defend himself against 
it by wearing many garments and pelisses. 3 

1 " I learn," says Pottinger, " from a manuscript history of the con 
quest of Mukran, in the ninetieth year of the hijree, that Kirman was 
then a very extensive city, full of riches, and celebrated for the excellence 
of the shawls and arms made in it." P. 222. " The trade of Kirman, 
though still considerable, has never revived in a manner to be compared 
to what it was previous to its last depopulation. ... Its manufac 
tures of shawls, matchlocks, and numuds or felts, are celebrated all over 
Asia, and are said to afford employment to upwards of one- third of the 
inhabitants, whether male or female." P. 225. 

2 " Les perdrix de Perse," says Chardin, "scat, comme je crois, les 
pluns grosses perdrix du monde et du gout le plus excellent." -P. 30. 

8 The road from the city of Kirman towards the Persian Gulf, here 
described, probably lay through the town of Bam or Bumm, which stands 
near the boundary line between what are considered as the cold and the 
warm regions of Kirman. [ The province of Nurmansheer," says Pot 
tinger, extends from the waste dividing it from Beloochistan to the 
city of Bumm. . . . Its boundary to the westward is the province of 
Kirman, of which, I believe, it is now deemed a component district; to 
the eastward it has the desert, as already mentioned; and, north and 
south, two ranges of mountains, the last of which are by much the highest, 
and I imagine, at all seasons, crowned with snow, as they were when I 
saw them, at which period it was exceedingly hot in the plain beneath." 
P. 199. These appear to be the mountains of Maren, which, says Ibn 
Haukal, belong to the cold region of Kirman; snow falls on them." 
P. 141. 

Travels of Marco Polo 



AT the end of the descent of this mountain, you arrive at a 
plain that extends, in a southern direction, to the distance of 
five days journey; at the commencement of which there is a 
town named Kamandu, 1 formerly a very large place and of 
much consequence, but not so at this day, having been re 
peatedly laid waste by the Tartars. The neighbouring district 
is called Reobarle. 2 The temperature of the plain is very 
warm. It produces wheat, rice, and other grains. On that 
partjDf it which lies nearest to the hills, dates, pomegranates, 
quinces, and a variety of other fruits, grow, amongst which is 
one called Adam s apple, 3 not known in our cool climate. 
Turtle-doves are found here in vast numbers, occasioned by 
the plenty of small fruits which supply them with food, and 
their not been eaten by the Mahometans, who hold them 
in abomination. 4 There are likewise many pheasants and 
francolins, which latter do not resemble those of other coun- 

1 The geography of the country lying between the capital of the pro 
vince of Kirman and the Persian Gulf is very imperfectly known; and 
even Pottinger s map, the most modern we possess, exhibits but one 
solitary name in that tract, although the chains of hills are there laid 
down with an appearance of precision. It is difficult therefore to ascer 
tain the place intended by Kamandu (in the B. M. and Berlin manu 
scripts, Camandi, and in the Italian epitomes, Edgamad), even if there 
were grounds to believe that this town, which had lost its consequence 
before our author s time, is still in existence. It may perhaps be the 
Memaun of D Anville s map, which is called Mahan by Ibn Haukal, or 
else the Koumin of the latter: but these are offered as mere conjectures. 

2 Reobarle is obviously meant for Rud-bar, a descriptive term applied, 
in numerous instances, to towns or districts in Persia and the neighbour 
ing countries. It signifies " a river in a valley, the channel of a torrent, 
and also a place where many streams run; " and the district here spoken 
of as answering that description, would seem from the circumstances to 
have occupied the banks of the river which in D Anville s and Malcolm s 
maps bears the name of Div Rud, and must be crossed in the way from 
Kirman or Ormuz. 

3 Pomus A dami is a name that has been given to the fruit called pumple- 
nose, shaddock, or citrus decumanus of Linnaeus; but here it may prob 
ably be intended for the orange itself, or pomum aurantium, named by 
the Arabians and Persians naranj. 

* This objection to the flesh of doves, as food, may have been a local 
prejudice; for it does not appear that they are generally regarded as an 
unclean meat by a Mahometan. 

Zoology of Persia 59 

tries, their colour being a mixture of white and black with red 
legs and beak. 1 Among the cattle also there are some of an 
uncommon kind, particularly a species of large white oxen, 
with short, smooth coats (the effect of a hot climate), horns 
short, thick, and obtuse, and having between the shoulders a 
gibbous rising or hump, about the height of two palms. 2 They 
are beautiful animals, and being very strong are made to 
carry great weights. Whilst loading, they are accustomed to 
kneel down like the camel, and then to rise up with the bur 
then. We find here also sheep that are equal to the ass in size, 
with long and thick tails, weighing thirty pounds and upwards, 
which are fat and excellent to eat. 3 In this province there 
are many towns encompassed with lofty and thick walls of 
earth, 4 for the purpose of defending the inhabitants against 

1 The tetrao francohnus, or francoline partridge of the Levant, has red 
legs and beak, as here described. Dr. Russell calls it francolinus oUnce, 
" known to the French by the name of gelinot (gelinotte)." The flesh, 
he says, is delicious, but the bird is not to be met with at less than a 
day s journey from the city. (Nat. Hist, of Aleppo.) 

This species of ox, commonly employed at Surat and other places on 
the western coast of India, in drawing the carriages called hakkries, was 
probably introduced from thence to the eastern provinces of Persia. It 
has been described by many writers, and among others by Niebuhr. 
See Voyage en Arabic, etc. torn. ii. p. 52. tab. xii. 

8 This extraordinary breed of sheep (ovis laticaudata) is a native of 
various parts of Asia and Africa, and has been often described. In the 
Natural History of Aleppo, the following circumstantial account of it is 
given, with a plate: "They have two sorts of sheep," says Russell, 
" in the neighbourhood of Aleppo: the one called Beduin sheep, which 
differ in no respect from the larger kinds of sheep in Britain, except that 
their tails are somewhat longer and thicker: the others are those often 
mentioned by travellers on account of their extraordinary tails ; and this 
species is by much the most numerous. This tail is very broad and 
large, terminating in a small appendage that turns back upon it. It is 
of a substance between fat and marrow, and is not eaten separately, but 
mixed with the lean meat in many of their dishes, and also often used 
instead of butter. A common sheep of this sort, without the head, feet, 
skin and entrails, weighs about twelve or fourteen Aleppo rotoloes (of 
five pounds), of which the tail is usually three rotoloes or upwards; but 
such as are of the largest breed and have been fattened, will sometimes 
weigh above thirty rotoloes, and the tails of these, ten (or fifty pounds) ; 
a thing to some scarce credible. These very large sheep being, about 
Aleppo, kept up in yards, are in no danger of injuring their tails; but in 
some other places, where they feed in the fields, the shepherds are obliged 
to fix a piece of thin board to the under part of the tail, to prevent its 
being torn by bushes, thistles, etc.; and some have small wheels, to 
facilitate the dragging of this board after them; whence, with a little 
exaggeration, the story of having carts to carry their tails." P. 51. 
Chardin s account of " les moutons grosse queue," of Persia, whose 
tails, he says, weigh thirty pounds, corresponds exactly with the above. 

4 Frequent mention is made by Hamilton of these mud entrench 
ments. " The Ballowches," he says, " appeared near the town of Gom 
broon, on a swift march towards it, which scared the (Persian) governor 

60 Travels of Marco Polo 

the incursions of the Karaunas, who scour the country and 
plunder every thing within their reach. 1 In order that the 
reader may understand what people these are, it is necessary 
to mention that there was a prince named Nugodar, the 
nephew of Zagatai, who was brother of the Grand Khan 
(Oktai), and reigned in Turkestan. 2 This Nugodar, whilst 
living at Zagatai s court, became ambitious of being himself 
a sovereign, and having heard that in India there was a pro 
vince called Malabar, 3 governed at that time by a king named 

so much, that, although there was an high mud wall between him and 
them, he got on horseback and fled. . . . The Ballowches came first 
to the west quarter of the town, where our factory stands, and soon made 
passages through the mud walls." New Account of the East Indies, vol. 
i. p. 108. The village of Bunpoor," says Pottinger, " is small and ill- 
built : it has been at one time surrounded by a low mud wall, with small 
bastions at intervals; but the whole is now gone to decay." Travels in 
Beloochistan and Sinde, p. 176. 

1 The early Latin text calls them " Scarani et Malandrini." The Ka- 
raunas we may presume to be the inhabitants of Makran, a tract of 
country extending from the vicinity of the Indus towards the Persian 
Gulf, and which takes its name from the word kardna, signifying a " shore, 
coast, or border." They appear to differ little from the neighbouring 
people of Baluchistan, if they be not in fact the same race ; and what 
our author states of them is a faithful picture of the predatory habits 
ascribed to the latter. " The Boloujes," says Ibn Haukal, " are in 
the desert of Mount Kefes, and Kefes in the Parsi language is Kouje; 
and they call these two people Koujes and Boloujes. The Boloujes are 
people who dwell in the desert; they infest the roads, and have not 
respect for any person." P. 140. Of the habits of this people we have 
the most particular account in the journal of Lieut. Pottinger, who says, 
" The Nharooes are the most savage and predatory class of Belooches; 
and whilst they deem private theft dishonourable and disgraceful in the 
extreme, they contemplate the plunder and devastation of a country 
with such opposite sentiments, that they consider it an exploit deserving 
of the highest commendation; and steeled by that feeling, they will 
individually recount the assistance they have rendered on such occasions, 
the numbers of men, women, and children they have made captives and 
carried away or murdered, the villages they have burned and plundered, 
and the flocks they have slaughtered when unable to drive them off." 
P. 58. " We are now in Mukran," said a native of Beloochistan to the 
same traveller, " where every individual is a robber by caste, and where 
they do not hesitate to plunder brothers and neighbours." P. 139. 

8 Nikodar Oghlan was the son of Hulagu, and grand nephew of Jagatai; 
lie succeeded his brother Abaka in the throne of Persia, by the name of 
Ahmed Khan, and was the first of his family who made public profession 
of Mahometanism. If the Nikodar, who pushed his fortune, as we are 
here told, on the side of India, did actually visit the court of Jagatai, 
who died in 1240, he must have belonged to the preceding generation, as 
it was not until 1282 that Ahmed Khan Nikodar became the sovereign 
of Persia, and forty-two years is an interval too great to admit of our 
supposing him to have been the eastern adventurer. There may have 
been an earlier Nikodar amongst the numerous grandsons of Jengiz-khan, 
and in fact the consistency of the story requires that the event should 
have taken place long before our author s time. 

3 I must here be indulged in a conjecture, which, however bold it may 
seem, will be justified by the sequel: that instead of Malabar or Malawar 

Conquest of Delhi 6 1 

As-idin Sultan/ which had not yet been brought under the 
dominion of the Tartars, he secretly collected a body of about 
ten thousand men, the most profligate and desperate he could 
find, and separating himself from his uncle without giving him 
any intimation of his designs, proceeded through Balashan 2 
to the kingdom of Kesmur, 3 where he lost many of his people 
and cattle, from the difficulty and badness of the roads, and 
at length entered the province of Malabar. 4 Coming thus 
upon As-idin by surprise, he took from him by force a city 
called Dely, as well as many others in its vicinity, and there 
began to reign. 5 The Tartars whom he carried thither, and 
who were men of a light complexion, mixing with the dark 
Indian women, produced the race to whom the appellation of 
Karaunas is given, signifying, in the language of the country, 
a mixed breed; 6 and these are the people who have since been 

(as it is often written) the word should be, and was in the original, Laha- 
war, or, as commonly pronounced, Lahore; for through this province, 
and certainly not through Malabar, this adventurer must necessarily have 
passed in his way to Delhi. 

1 Azz-eddin, Ghiyas-eddin, and Moazz-eddin, with the addition of 
Sultan, were common titles of the Patan sovereigns of Delhi, as well as 
of the princes who governed the provinces of their empire. 

2 Badakhshan, near the sources of the Oxus, lies on that side of Jagatai s 
country which is nearest to the heads of the Indus and Ganges, and con 
sequently in the line of march towards Delhi. 

8 Kesmur can be no other than Kashmir, which lies in the direction 
from Badakhshan towards Lahore, Sirhind, and the capital. The more 
common route is by Kabul, but the object of this petty invader was, to 
keep amongst the mountains, and thereby conceal his intentions. 

4 Here it becomes perfectly obvious, that the country into which he 
penetrated upon leaving Kashmir was the Panjab, of which Lahawar or 
Lahore is the principal city. 

* We do not read in any native historian, of this conquest of Delhi by 
the Moghul Tartars, antecedent to the invasion by Tamerlane. But we 
learn from the History of Hindustan, as translated by Dow from the 
text of Ferishta, that Moazz-eddin Byram Shah, king of Delhi, whose 
reign began in 1239 and ended in 1242, was involved in troubles with his 
vizir and principal omrahs, by whom a mutiny was excited amongst his 
troops. At this crisis, news arrived that the Moghuls of the great 
Zingis had invested Lahore; that Malek, the viceioy of that place, find 
ing his troops mutinous, had been obliged to flee in the night, and was 
actually on his way to Delhi; and that Lahore was plundered by the 
enemy, and the miserable inhabitants carried away prisoners." " The 
vizir, in the meantime, advanced with the army to the capital, which he 
besieged for three months and a half. Rebellion spreading at last among 
the citizens, the place was taken in the year 1241. Byram was thrown 
into prison, where, in a few days, he came to a tragical end. The Moghuls 
after plundering the provinces on the banks of the five branches of the 
Indus, returned to Ghizni." Thus we perceive that at the very period 
in question, which was a little before or after the death of Jagatai in 1240, 
an army of Moghuls did advance into provinces subject to the king of 
Delhi, and plundered his frontier cities. 

8 One of the meanings of the Sanskrit word karana is, "a person of a 
mixed breed/ 

6 2 Travels of Marco Polo 

in the practice of committing depredations,, not only in the 
country of Reobarle, but in every other to which they have 
access. In India they acquired the knowledge of magical 
and diabolical arts, by means of which they are enabled to pro 
duce darkness, obscuring the light of day to such a degree, that 
persons are invisible to each other, unless within a very small 
distance. 1 Whenever they go on their predatory excursions, 
they put this art in practice, and their approach is conse 
quently not perceived. Most frequently this district is the 
scene of their operations; because when the merchants from 
various parts assemble at Ormus, and wait for those who are 
on their way from India, they send, in the winter season, their 
horses and mules, which are out of condition from the length of 
their journey, to the plain of Reobarle, where they find abun 
dance of pasture and become fat. The Karaunas, aware that 
this will take place, seize the opportunity of effecting a general 
pillage, and make slaves of the people who attend the cattle, 
if they have not the means of ramsom. Marco Polo himself 2 
was once enveloped in a factitious obscurity of this kind, but 
escaped from it to the castle of Konsalmi. 3 Many of his com 
panions, however, were taken and sold, and others were put to 
death. These people have a king named Corobar. 

1 The belief in such supernatural agency was the common weakness of 
the darker ages. Although the appearance and effects are materially 
different, it may be suspected that there is some connexion between this 
story of mists produced by enchantment, and the optical deception 
noticed by Elphinstone, in his journey across what may be considered as 
an extension of the same desert, notwithstanding the separation of its 
parts by the country through which the Indus takes its course. " To 
wards evening," he says, " many persons were astonished with the ap 
pearance of a long lake, enclosing several little islands. ... It was, 
however, only one of those illusions which the French call mirage, and 
the Persians sirraub. I had imagined this phenomenon to be occasioned 
by a thin vapour (or something resembling a vapour), which is seen over 
the ground in the hot weather in India, but this appearance was entirely 
different, and, on looking along the ground, no vapour whatever could be 
perceived. ... I shall not attempt to account for this appearance, 
but shall merely remark, that it seems only to be found in level, smooth, 
and dry places." Account of Caubul, p. 16. 

z The story may amount to nothing more than that these robbers, 
having their haunts in the neighbourhood of mountains, availed them 
selves of the opportunity of thick mists, to make their attacks on the 
caravans with the more security; whilst their knowledge of the country 
enabled them to occupy those narrow denies through which the travellers 
must unavoidably pass. 

8 This castle of Konsalmi, or, according to another reading, Kanosalim, 
is not now to be discovered in our maps, but it may be remarked that the 
Persian words Khanah al-salam signify, " the house of safety, or peace." 
" A small but neat tower," says Elphinstone, " was seen in this march 
(through the desert), and we were told it was a place of refuge for 
travellers, against the predatory hordes who in/est the route of cara 
vans." P. 17. 

Description of Hormuz 63 



AT the extremity of the plain before mentioned as extending 
in a southern direction to the distance of five days journey, 
there is a descent for about twenty miles, by a road that is 
extremely dangerous, from the multitude of robbers, by whom 
travellers are continually assaulted and plundered. 1 This 
declivity conducts you to another plain, very beautiful in its 
appearance, two days journey in extent, which is called the 
plain of Ormus. Here you cross a number of fine streams, 
and see a country covered with date-palms, amongst which 
are found the francoline partridge, birds of the parrot kind, 
and a variety of others unknown to our climate. At length 
you reach the border of the ocean, where, upon an island, at 
no great distance from the shore, stands a city named Ormus, 2 

1 " In the mountains near Hormuz, it is said, there is much cultivated 
land, and cattle, and many strong places. On every mountain there is 
a chief, and they have an allowance from the sultan or sovereign; yet 
they infest the roads of Kirman, and as far as the borders of Fars and 
Sejestan. They commit their robberies on foot ; and it is said that their 
race is of Arabian origin, and that they have accumulated vast wealth." 
Sir W. Ouseley s transl. of Ibn Haukal, p. 140. 

2 The original city of Ormuz, or Hormuz, was situated on the eastern 
shore of the Gulf of Persia, in the province of Mogostan, and kingdom of 
Kirman. Ibn Haukal, about the latter part of the tenth century, speaks 
evidently of this city, on the main, when he says: " Hormuz is the 
emporium of the merchants in Kirman, and their chief sea-port: it has 
mosques and market-places, and the merchants reside in the suburbs." 
P. 142. It was destroyed by one of the princes who reigned in Kirman, 
of the Seljuk dynasty, according to some accounts, or the Moghul, accord 
ing to others. The exact period is not satisfactorily ascertained. On 
this occasion, the inhabitants removed, with their most valuable effects, 
to the neighbouring island of Jerun, about thirteen geographical miles 
from the former situation, where the foundation of the new city of 
Hormuz, or Ormuz, destined to acquire still greater celebrity than the 
former, was laid, although under the disadvantages of wanting water, 
and of a soil impregnated with salt and sulphur. Abulfeda, who wrote 
in the early part of the fourteenth century, and was a contemporary of 
our author, describes the insular city. This island was taken from the 
native princes, hi 1507, by the Portuguese, under the famous Alfonso 
Albuquerque. In their hands," says Robertson, " Ormuz soon be 
came the great mart from which the Persian empire, and all the pro 
vinces of Asia to the west of it, were supplied with the productions of 
India; and a city which they built on that barren island, destitute of 
water, was rendered one of the chief seats of opulence, splendour, and 

6 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

whose port is frequented by traders from all parts of India> 
who bring spices and drugs, precious stones, pearls, gold 
tissues, elephants teeth, and various other articles of mer 
chandize. These they dispose of to a different set of traders, 
by whom they are dispersed throughout the world. This 
city, indeed, is eminently commercial, has towns and castles 
dependent upon it, and is esteemed the principal place in 
the kingdom of Kierman. 1 Its ruler is named Rukmedin 
Achomak, 2 who governs with absolute authority, but at the 
same time acknowledges the king of Kierman 3 as his liege 

luxury in the eastern world." Historical Disquisition, p. 140. From 
them it was wrested, in 1622, by Shah Abbas, with the assistance of an 
English squadron. Its fortifications, and other public structures, were 
razed by that conqueror; and its commerce was transferred to a place 
on the neighbouring coast, called Gambrun, to which he gave the name 
of Bandar Abbassi. But in the meantime the discovery of the pas 
sage from Europe by the Cape of Good Hope operated to divert the 
general trade into a new channel, and that which was carried on by the 
medium of ports in the Gulf of Persia rapidly declined. In the year 1765, 
when Niebuhr visited these parts, the island on which Hormuz stood was 
possessed by a person who had been in the naval service of Nadir Shah, 
and the place was become quite insignificant. 

1 By this must be meant, that Hormuz exceeded the other cities in 
opulence, and perhaps in population; but Sirgan or Sirjan, also called 
Kirman, was the capital of what we term the province of that name, and 
there the sovereign resided. 

2 In the list of sultans of Hormuz furnished by Texeira in his trans 
lation of the annals of Turan-shah, we find one named Rukn-eddin Mah- 
mud, who, although the dates are very imperfect, may be supposed to 
have reigned about the period of our author s visit to the Gulf of Persia, 
and to be the prince here called Rukmedin Achomak. The latter name 
is evidently intended for Achmet, in which mode that of Ahmed has been 
commonly though improperly written ; and it is well known that oriental 
writers themselves frequently commit errors by confounding the three 
names of Ahmed, Muhammed, and Mahmud. 

3 No record of the kings of Kirman can be traced to a later date than 
the year 1187, when Malik Dinar, of the race of Ali (a Seyed), expelled 
the last of the Seljuk princes, and established himself on the throne; 
but under Hulagu and his successors, who conquered Persia in the follow 
ing century, and formed a Moghul dynasty, it must have become again a 
province or fief of that empire, governed (as it is at the present day) by 
a branch of the reigning family. De Barros (Decade ii. liv. ii. cap. 2) 
informs us that a king or chief of Hormuz (in the district of Mogostan, on 
the main,) obtained from his neighbour, the Malek of Kaez, a cession of 
the island of Jerun, lying near his part of the coast, and established there 
a naval force, for the purpose of commanding the straits; that in the 
event of a war, provoked by this assumption of power, he became master 
of the island of Kaez also; that the king of Persia (or, rather, the ruler 
of Kirman), to whom the Malek had been used to pay tribute, marched 
an army into Mogostan, and compelled the king of Hormuz to abandon 
his city on the continent, and to take refuge in the island of Jerun, where 
he founded the new city of Hormuz ; that upon his consenting to acknow 
ledge vassalage and pay tribute (a share of the tolls on shipping) to the 
Persian king, he was suffered to remain in possession of both islands; and 
that in his new establishment he afterwards reigned thirty years. The 

Description of Hormuz 65 

lord. When any foreign merchant happens to die within his 
jurisdiction, he confiscates the property, and deposits the 
amount in his treasury. 1 During the summer season, the in 
habitants do not remain in the city, on account of the exces 
sive heat, which renders the air unwholesome, but retire to 
their gardens along the shore or on the banks of the river, 
where with a kind of ozier-work they construct huts over the 
water. These they enclose with stakes, driven in the water 
on the one side, and on the other upon the shore, making 
a covering of leaves to shelter them from the sun. Here 
they reside during the period in which there blows, every 
day, from about the hour of nine until noon, a land-wind so 
intensely hot as to impede respiration, and to occasion death 
by suffocating the person exposed to it. None can escape 
from its effects who are overtaken by it on the sandy plain. 2 
As soon as the approach of this wind is perceived by the in 
habitants, they immerge themselves to the chin in water, and 
continue in that situation until it ceases to blow. 3 In proof 

circumstances thus stated by De Barros agree in the material parts with 
what our author relates at this place, and more pai tbularly in book iii. 
chap, xliii. ; but the Portuguese historian refers all the transactions to 
the single reign of Gordun-shah, who, he says, obtained the cession of 
Jerun in 1273, an d who, according to Texeira s list, where he is named 
Azz-eddin Gordan-shah, died in 1318. There is reason, however, to 
believe that he gives an unfounded extension to this reign, and that the 
earlier events spoken of belonged to those of Seif-eddin and Rukn-eddin, 
who were probably the father and grandfather of that prince. 

1 This odious right is known to have been exercised in Europe, in very 
modern times, under the name of " droit d aubaine." 

2 The hot wind known in Italy by the name of II Sirocco, and in Africa 
by that of Harmatan, has been often described by travellers. In the 
deserts of the south of Persia its effects are perhaps most violent. " The 
winds in this desert," says Pottinger, " are often so scorching (during the 
hot months from June to September) as to kill anything, either animal 
or vegetable, that may be exposed to them, and the route by which I 
travelled is then deemed impassable. This wind is distinguished every 
where in Beloochistan, by the different names of Julot or Julo (the 
flame), and Bade sumopm (the pestilential wind). So powerfully search 
ing is its nature, that it has been known to kill camels, or other hardy 
animals ; and its effects on the human frame were related to me, by those 
who had been eye-witnesses of them, as the most dreadful that can be 
imagined: the muscles of the unhappy sufferer become rigid and con 
tracted; the skin shrivels; an agonizing sensation, as if the flesh was on 
nre, pervades the whole frame, and in the last stage it cracks into deep 
gashes, producing hemorrhage, that quickly ends this misery." P. 136. 

3 For this practice of immersion we have the testimony of Pietro della 
Valle, who was in the Gulf of Persia during the siege of Hormuz. and 
visited the island immediately after its falling into the hands of the 
Persians. Hormuz," he writes in his letter of the i8th January, 1623, 

comunemente si stima la piu calda terra del mondo. . . . E mi 
clicono, che in certo tempo delP anno, le genti di Hormuz non potrebbero 
vivere, se non vi stessero qualche hora del giorno immersi fin alia gola 

66 Travels of Marco Polo 

of the extraordinary degree of this heat, Marco Polo says that 
he happened to be in these parts when the following circum 
stance occurred. The ruler of Ormus having neglected to pay 
his tribute to the king of Kierman, the latter took the resolu 
tion of enforcing it at the season when the principal inhabitants 
reside out of the city, upon the main land, and for this pur 
pose despatched a body of troops, consisting of sixteen hun 
dred horse and five thousand foot, through the country of 
Reobarle, in order to seize them by surprise. In consequence, 
however, of their being misled by the guides, they failed to 
arrive at the place intended before the approach of night., and 
halted to take repose in a grove not far distant from Ormus; 
but upon recommencing their march in the morning, they 
were assailed by this hot wind, and were all suffocated; not 
one escaping to carry the fatal intelligence to his master. 
When the people of Ormus became acquainted with the event, 
and proceeded to bury the carcases, in order that their stench 
might not infect the air, they found them so baked by the 
intenseness of the heat, that the limbs, upon being handled, 
separated from the trunks, and it became necessary to dig the 
graves close to the spot where the bodies lay. 1 

nelT acqua, che, a questo fine, in tutte le case, tengono in alcune vasche, 
fatte a posta." Although additional testimony be not wanting, I shall 
give that of Schillinger, an intelligent Swabian traveller, who visited 
these countries in the year 1700, and furnishes a good description of 
Hormuz and Gambrun. " Wann die grosse Hitze einfallet," he says, 
" legen sich die Innwohner den gantzen Tag durch in darzu bequemte 
Wasser-troge, oder stehen in mit wasser angefullten Fassern biss an hals, 
umb also zu ruhen, und sich der unleydentlichen Hitze zu erwehren." 
-Persianische Reis, p. 279. 

1 With regard to the state of the bodies, however extraordinary the 
circumstances may appear, they are fully corroborated by Chardin, 
who, speaking further of this wind, says, " Son effet le plus surprenant 
n est pas meme la mort qu il cause; c est que les corps qui en meurent 
sont comme dissous, sans perdre pourtant leur figure, ni meme leur 
couleur, en sorte qu pn diroit qu ils ne sont qu endormis, quoiqu ils 
soient morts, et que si on les prend quelque part, la piece demeure & la 
main." He then proceeds to adduce some recent facts in proof of his 
assertion. Tom. ii, p. 9, 4to. 

The Shipping at Ormus 67 



THE vessels built at Ormus are of the worst kind, and danger 
ous for navigation, exposing the merchants and others who 
make use of them to great hazards. Their defects proceed 
from the circumstance of nails not being employed in the con 
struction; the wood being of too hard a quality, and liable 
to split or to crack like earthenware. When an attempt is 
made to drive a nail, it rebounds, and is frequently broken. 
The planks are bored, as carefully as possible, with an iron 
auger, near the extremities; and wooden pins or trenails 
being driven into them, they are in this manner fastened (to 
the stem and stern). After this they are bound, or rather 
sewed together, with a kind of rope-yarn stripped from the 
husk of the Indian (cocoa) nuts, which are of a large size, and 
covered with a fibrous stuff like horse-hair. This being 
steeped in water until the softer parts putrefy, the threads or 
strings remain clean, and of these they make twine for sewing 
the planks, which lasts long under water. 1 Pitch is not used 
for preserving the bottoms of vessels, but they are smeared 
with an oil made from the fat of fish, and then caulked with 
oakum. The vessel has no more than one mast, one helm, 

1 We know little of the shipping employed in the Gulf of Persia before 
the conquest of Hormuz by the Portuguese; and since that period the 
influence and example of these and other Europeans have much changed 
the system of Persian and Indian navigation; yet the account given by 
our author corresponds in every essential particular with the kind of 
vessel described by Niebuhr. Such also are the boats employed at the 
present day on the coast of Coromandel, called chelingues by the French, 
and masulah boats by the English, which are thus described by Le Gentil : 
Les bateaux dans lesquels se passent ces barres, se nomment che 
lingues; ilssont faits expres; ce sont des planches mises Tune au-dessus 
de 1 autre, et cousues Tune & Pautre, avec du fil fait de Pecorce interieur 
du cocotier (de la noix du coco); les coutures sont calfatees avec de 
Petoupe faite de la meme ecorce, et enfoncee sans beaucoup de fagons avec 
un mauvais couteau. Le fond de ces bateaux est plat et form6 comme 
les bords; ces bateaux ne sont guere plus longs que larges, et il n entre 
pas un seul clou dans leur construction." (Voyage, torn. i. p. 540.) 
This twine, manufactured from the fibrous husk of the cocoa-nut (not 
from the bark of the tree, as M. Le Gentil supposed), is well known in 
India by the name of coire, and is worked into ropes for running-rigging 
and cables. 

68 Travels of Marco Polo 

and one deck. 1 When she has taken in her lading it is 
covered over with hides, and upon these hides they place the 
horses which they carry to India. They have no iron anchors, 
but in their stead employ another kind of ground-tackle; 2 
the consequence of which is, that in bad weather, (and these 
seas are very tempestuous,) they are frequently driven on 
shore and lost. 

The inhabitants of the place are of a dark colour, and are 
Mahometans. They sow their wheat, rice, and other grain in 
the month of November, and reap their harvest in March. 3 
The fruits also they gather in that month, with the exception 
of the dates, which are collected in May. Of these, with 
other ingredients, they make a good kind of wine. 4 When it 
is drunk, however, by persons not accustomed to the beverage, 
it occasions an immediate flux; but upon their recovering 
from its first effects, it proves beneficial to them, and con 
tributes to render them fat. The food of the natives is 
different from ours; for were they to eat wheaten bread and 
flesh meat their health would be injured. They live chiefly 
upon dates and salted fish, such as the thunnus, cepole (cepola 
tania), and others which from experience they know to be 
.wholesome. Excepting in marshy places, the soil of this 
country is not covered with grass, in consequence of the ex 
treme heat, which burns up everything. Upon the death of 
men of rank, their wives loudly bewail them, once in the course 
of each day, during four successive weeks; and there are also 

1 It is to be observed that the numerous praws which cover the seas of 
the further East, are steered, in general, with two helms or kamudis; 
and that such vessels had recently been under the notice of our author 
in his passage to the straits of Malacca. 

2 Neither are the vessels of the Malays commonly provided with iron 
anchors; which I presume to be what is meant by * ferri di sorzer," 
although the term is not to be met with either in the general or the marine 
dictionaries. Their anchors are formed of strong and heavy wood, have 
only one arm or fluke, and are sunk by means of heavy stones attached 
to them. 

3 We might not expect to read of wheat being cultivated in so hot a 
climate, but the fact is well ascertained. 

4 What has usually been termed palm- wine, or toddy, is a liquor ex 
tracted from trees of the class of palms, by cutting off the shoot for 
fructification, and applying to the wounded part a vessel into which the 
liquor distils; but we read also of an inebriating liquor prepared from 
ripe dates, by steeping them in warm water, until they undergo vinous 
fermentation. Pottinger, speaking of the people of Mukran (adjoining 
to the province of Kirman), says: " They likewise drink great quantities 
of an intoxicating beverage, made from the fermented dates, which must 
be exceedingly pernicious in its effects." (P. 306.) In the Anabasis of 
Xenophon, this liquor is spoken of as having been met with by the Greeks 
in the villages of Babylonia. 

Return to Kierman 69 

people to be found here who make such lamentations a pro 
fession, and are paid for uttering them over the corpses of 
persons to whom they are not related. 1 



HAVING spoken of Ormus, I shall for the present defer treat 
ing of India, intending to make it the subject of a separate 
Book, and now return to Kierman in a northerly direction. 
Leaving Ormus, therefore, and taking a different road to that 
place, you enter upon a beautiful plain, producing in abun 
dance every article of food; and birds are numerous, especi 
ally partridges: but the bread, which is made from wheat 
grown in the country, cannot be eaten by those who have not 
learned to accommodate their palates to it, having a bitter 
taste derived from the quality of .the waters, which are all 
bitter and salsuginous. On every side you perceive warm, 
sanative streams, applicable to the cure of cutaneous and 
other bodily complaints. Dates and other fruits are in great 



UPON leaving Kierman and travelling three days, you reach 
the borders of a desert extending to the distance of seven 

1 These excessive lamentations, so common in the East, and not un 
known in some parts of Europe, as well as the practice of hiring profes 
sional mourners, have been often described by travellers. " Les femmes 
sur tout," says Chardin, " s emportent aux exces de fureur et de desola 
tion les plus outrez, qu elles entremelent de longues complaintes, de 
recits tendres et touchans, et de doulloureuses apostrophes au cadavre 
insensible." (Tom. ii. p. 385.) " It is usual," says Fryer, " to hire 
people to lament; and the widow, once a moon, goes to the grave with 
her acquaintance to repeat the doleful dirge." {Account of East India 
and Persia, p. 94.) It may be observed, that in the early Latin and 
other early texts the time of mourning is stated to be four years instead 
of four weeks. 

70 Travels of Marco Polo 

days journey, at the end of which you arrive at Kobiam. 1 
During the first three days (of these seven) but little water 
is to be met with, and that little is impregnated with salt, 
green as grass, and so nauseous that none can use it as drink. 
Should even a drop of it be swallowed, frequent calls of nature 
will be occasioned; and the effect is the same from eating a 
grain of the salt made from this water. 2 In consequence of 
this, persons who travel over the desert are obliged to carry 
a provision of water along with them. The cattle, however, 
are compelled by thirst to drink such as they find, and a flux 
immediately ensues. In the course of these three days not 
one habitation is to be seen. The whole is arid and desolate. 
Cattle are not found there, because there is no subsistence 
for them. 3 On the fourth day you come to a river of fresh 
water, but which has its channel for the most part under 
ground. In some parts however there are abrupt openings, 
caused by the force of the current, through which the stream 

1 Kobiam (Gobiam in the early Latin text, Kobinam in others) is the 
Kabis of D Anville, the Chabis of Edrisi, the Khebis, Khebeis, and 
Khubeis of Ibn Haukal, and the Khubees of Ppttinger. " Khebeis," 
says Ibn Haukal, " is a town on the borders of this desert, with running 
water and date- trees. From that to Durak is one merhileh ; and during 
this stage, as far as the eye can reach, everything wears the appearance 
of ruin and desolation; for there is not any kind of water." (Ouseley s 
translation, p. 199.) It formerly flourished," says Pottinger, " and 
was the residence of a Beglerbeg on the part of the chief of Seistan, but 
now is a miserable decayed place, and the inhabitants are notorious 
robbers and outcasts, who subsist by infesting the highways of Khorasan 
and Persia, and plundering karawans." P. 229. 

a The salt springs and plains incrusted with salt, which Pottinger met 
with in Kirman and the adjacent countries, are thus spoken of: " We 
crossed a river of liquid salt, so deep as to take my horse to the knees; 
the surface of the plain for several hundred yards on each side was entirely 
hid by a thick incrustation of white salt, resembling a fall of frozen snow, 
that crackled under the horse s hoofs." (P. 237.) The whole of these 
mountains (of Kohistan) abound with mineral productions: in several 
places there are brooks of liquid salt, and pools of water covered with a 
scum similar to the naphtha, or bitumen, found near the Caspian sea." 
(P. 312.) On the high road from Kelat to Kutch Gundava there is a 
range of hills, from which a species of salt, perfectly red in its colour, is 
extracted, that possesses very great aperient qualities. Sulphur and 
alum are to be had at the same place." (P. 323.) It would seem from 
its effects that the salt of these deserts contains sulphate of magnesia, 
and the green colour noticed by our author may proceed from a mixture 
of sulphate of iron. 

3 " On the east," says Ibn Haukal, the desert of Khorasan partly 
borders the province of Makran and partly Seistan; to the south it has 
Kirman and Fars, and part of the borders of Isfahan. . . . This 
desert is almost totally uninhabited and waste. . . . It is the haunt 
of robbers and thieves, and without a guide it is very difficult to find the 
way through it, and one can only go by the well-known paths." 
192 194. 

The Town of Kobiam 71 

becomes visible for a short space, and water is to be had in 
abundance. Here the wearied traveller stops to refresh him 
self and his cattle after the fatigues of the preceding journey. 1 
The circumstances of the latter three days resemble those of 
the former, and conduct him at length to the town of Kobiam. 



KOBIAM is a large town, the inhabitants of which observe 
the law of Mahomet. They have plenty of iron, accarum, 
and andanicum. Here they make mirrors of highly polished 
steel, of a large size and very handsome. Much antimony 
or zinc is found in the country, and they procure tutty which 
makes an excellent collyrium, together with spodium, by the 
following process. They take the crude ore from a vein that 
is known to yield such as is fit for the purpose, and put it 
into a heated furnace. Over the furnace they place an iron 
grating formed of small bars set close together. The smoke 
or vapour ascending from the ore in burning attaches itself to 
the bars, and as it cools becomes hard. This is the tutty; 
whilst the gross and heavy part, which does not ascend, but 
remains as a cinder in the furnace, becomes the spodium. 2 

1 This place of refreshment may perhaps be Shur, which Ibn Haukal 
terms a stream of water in the desert, on the road which begins from the 
Kirman side. In another place he says it is one day s journey from 
Durak, (mentioned in note 1 , p. 70,) and describes it as a broad water 
course of rain-water. No notice, however, is there taken of its passing 
under ground; and the identity, therefore, is not to be insisted upon; 
but the subterraneous passage of rivers is not very uncommon. 

2 In Note*, p. 56, a reason was assigned for supposing that by the word 
andanico was meant antimony, which is stated by Chardin and others to 
be found in the quarter of Persia here spoken of; but from the process 
of making tutty and spodium so particularly described in this place, we 
should be led to infer that lapis calaminaris, or zinc, is the mineral to 
which our author gives that name, or rather, the name of which andanico 
is the corruption. How far the qualities of antimony and of zinc may 
render them liable to be mistaken for each other, I do not pretend to 
judge, but upon this point there seems to exist a degree of uncertainty 
that may excuse our author, if he supposed that the former, instead of 
the latter, was employed in the manufacture of tutia or tutty. " The 
argillaceous earth," says Bontius, " of which tutty is made, is found in 
great quantities in the province of Persia called Kirmon, as I have often 
been told by Persian and Armenian merchants." (Account of Diseases, 

72 Travels of Marco Polo 



LEAVING Kobiam you proceed over a desert of eight days* 
journey exposed to great drought; neither fruits nor any 
kind of trees are met with, and what water is found has a 
bitter taste. Travellers are therefore obliged to carry with 
them so much as may be necessary for their sustenance. 
Their cattle are constrained by thirst to drink such as the 
desert affords, which their owners endeavour to render palat 
able to them by mixing it with flour. At the end of eight 
days you reach the province of Timochain, situated towards 
the north, on the borders of Persia, in which are many towns 
and strong places. 1 There is here an extensive plain remark 
able for the production of a species of tree called the tree of 
the sun, and by Christians arbor secco, the dry or fruitless tree. 
Its nature and qualities are these: It is lofty, with a large 
stem, having its leaves green on the upper surface, but white 
or glaucous on the under. It produces husks or capsules 

Natural Hist. etc. of the East Indies, chap. xiii. p. 180.) Pottinger, in 
the journal of his travels through Beloochistan towards Kirman, speaks 
of a caravansery " called Soormu-sing, or the stone of antimony, a name 
which it derives from the vast quantities of that mineral to be collected 
in the vicinity." (P. 38.) That the collyrium so much in use amongst 
the eastern people, called surmeh by the Persians, and anjan or unjun by 
the natives of Hindustan, has tutty for its basis, will not, I suppose, be 
disputed: but in the Persian and Hindustani dictionaries it will be found 
that surmeh and unjan are likewise the terms for antimony. Whatever 
may be the proper application of the names, he is at least substantially 
correct in the fact that tutty, employed as a collyrium or ophthalmic 
unguent, is prepared from a mineral substance found in the province of 

1 It has already been shown that the Timocain or Timochain of our 
text is no other than Damaghan, a place of considerable importance on 
the north-eastern confines of Persia, having the ancient Hyrcania, from 
which it is separated by a chain of mountains, to the north, the province 
of Khorasan to the east, and the small province of Kumis, of which it is 
the capital, together with the salt-desert, to the south. In this neigh 
bourhood it was that Ghazan the son of Arghun, heir to the throne of 
Persia, then occupied by his uncle, was stationed with an army to guard 
the important pass of Khowar or the Caspian Straits, at the period of 
the arrival of the Polo family from China; and thither they were directed 
to proceed, in order to deliver into his hands their precious charge, a 
princess of the house of KublaT. 

The Old Man of the Mountain 


like those in which the chestnut is enclosed, but these con 
tain no fruit. The wood is solid and strong, and of a yellow 
colour resembling the box. 1 There is no other species of tree 
near it for the space of a hundred miles, excepting in one 
quarter, where trees are found within the distance of about 
ten miles. It is reported by the inhabitants of this district 
that a battle was fought there between Alexander, king of 
Macedonia, and Darius. 2 The towns are well supplied with 
every necessary and convenience of life, the climate being 
temperate and not subject to extremes either of heat or cold. 3 
The people are of the Mahometan religion. They are in 
general a handsome race, especially the women, who, in my 
opinion, are the most beautiful in the world. 



HAVING spoken of this country, mention shall now be made of 
the old man of the mountain. 4 The district in which his 

1 This tree, to which the name of arbor secco was applied, would seem 
to be a species of fagus, and to partake of the character of the chestnut. 
But from various passages of later writers, we shall be justified in con 
sidering it was intended for a variety of the platanus, or plane-tree. The 
epithet of secco seems to imply nothing more than this: that when the 
form of the husk promises an edible nut, the stranger who gathers it is 
disappointed on finding no perceptible contents, or only a dry and taste 
less seed. 

8 The last battle fought between Alexander and Darius was at Arbela 
(Arbil), in Kurdistan, not far from the Tigris, but in the subsequent 
operations, the vanquished king of Persia was pursued from Ecbatana 
(Ramadan), through the Caspian Straits or pass of Khowar, which Alex 
ander s troops penetrated without opposition, into the province of Comi- 
sene (Kumis), of which Hecatompylos (supposed to be Damaghan) was 
the capital ; nor did the pursuit cease until the unfortunate monarch was 
murdered by his own subjects not far from the latter city. Alexander 
himself advanced by a nearer way, but across a desert entirely destitute 
of water. Traditions respecting the Macedonian conqueror abound in 
this part of the country. 

1 The mildness of the climate, and at the same tune its extreme 
unhealthiness, along the southern shore of the Caspian, is noticed by 
Olearius, Chardin, and other travellers; but the district about Damaghan, 
here spoken of, is separated by a chain of mountains from the swampy 
tract between Asterabad and Ferhabad (the places chiefly visited by 
Europeans during the reign of Shah Abbas, who frequently held his 
court in them), and occupies a much more elevated region. 

4 The appellation so well known in the histories of the crusades, of 
" Old man of the mountain," is an injudicious version of the Arabic title 

74 Travels of Marco Polo 

residence lay obtained the name of Mulehet, signifying in the 
language of the Saracens, the place of heretics, and his people 
that of Mulehetites, 1 or holders of heretical tenets; as we 
apply the term of Patharini to certain heretics amongst 
Christians. 2 The following account of this chief, Marco Polo 
testifies to having heard from sundry persons. He was named 
Alo-eddin, 3 and his religion was that of Mahomet. In a 
beautiful valley enclosed between two lofty mountains, he 
had formed a luxurious garden, stored with every delicious 

Sheikh al Jebal, signifying " chief of the mountainous region." But as 
the word sheikh, like signer, and some other European terms, bears the 
meaning of " elder," as well as of " lord or chief," a choice of interpreta 
tions was offered, and the less appropriate adopted. The places where 
this personage, who was the head of a religious or fanatical sect, exercised 
the rights of sovereignty, were the castles of Alamut, Lamsir, Kirdkuh, 
and Maimun-diz, and the district of Rudbar; all situated within the 
limits of that province which the Persians name Kuhestan, and the 
Arabians Al-jebal. " La position d Alamout," says De Sacy, in his 
M6moire sur la Dynastie des Assassins et sur 1 Origine de leur Nom, "situee 
au milieu d un pays de montagnes, fit appeler le prince qui y regnoit 
scheikh-aldjebal, c est-a-dire, le scheikh ou prince des montagnes, et 
r6quivoque du mot scheikh, qui signifie egalement vieillard et prince, a 
donn6 lieu aux historiens des croisades et au celebre voyageur Marc Pol, 
de le nommer le Vieux de la montagne." 

1 This correct application of the Arabic term, Mulehet or Mulched, is 
one of the many unquestionable proofs of the genuineness of our author s 
relation, and would De sufficient to remove the doubts of any learned and 
candid inquirers on the subject of his acquaintance with oriental matters. 
Under the article Melahedah, in the Bibliotheque Orientale of D Herbelot, 
we read: " C est le pluriel de Melhed, qui signifie un impie > un homme 
sans religion. Melahedah Kuhestan: Les Impies de la Montagne. 
C est ainsi que sont appelles les Isrnaelians qui ont regne dans I Iran, et 
particulierement dans la partie montueuse de la Perse." This oppro 
brious epithet was bestowed by the orthodox Mussulmans upon the 
fanatic sect of Ismaelians, Batenians, or, as they style themselves, Refik, 
or Friends, who, under the influence of an adventurer named Hasan ben 
Sabbah, began to flourish in Persia about the year 1090, during the reign 
of Malik Shah Jelal-eddin, third sovereign of the Seljukian dynasty. 
With respect to the two grand divisions of the Mussulman political faith, 
they professed themselves to belong to the Shiahs or Rafedhi (as they are 
termed by their adversaries), who maintain the legitimate right to the 
khalifat in the descendants of Ali. Their particular tenets appear to 
have been connected with those of the more ancient Karmats and modern 

1 The Paterini are more generally known by the name of Waldenses, 
Albigenses, and amongst the French writers by that of Patalins or 

8 Ala-eddin, the Ismaelian prince, was killed, after a long reign, about 
the end of the year 1255, and was succeeded by Rukn-eddin ben Ala- 
eddin, who reigned only one year before the destruction of his power 
under the circumstances our author proceeds to relate. He is correct 
therefore in attributing the actions which roused the indignation of the 
world to the former; but he does not appear to have been aware that it 
was the son against whom the attack of the Moghuls was directed, although 
the expedition must have been undertaken against Ala-eddin, the father. 

The Old Man of the Mountain- 75 

fruit and every fragrant shrub that could be procured. 
Palaces of various sizes and forms were erected in different 
parts of the grounds, ornamented with works in gold, with 
paintings, and with furniture of rich silks. By means of small 
conduits contrived in these buildings, streams of wine, milk, 
honey, and some of pure water, were seen to flow in every 
direction. The inhabitants of these palaces were elegant and 
beautiful damsels, accomplished in the arts of singing, play 
ing upon all sorts of musical instruments, dancing, and especi 
ally those of dalliance and amorous allurement. Clothed in 
rich dresses they were seen continually sporting and amusing 
themselves in the garden and pavilions, their female guardians 
being confined within doors and never suffered to appear. 
The object which the chief had in view in forming a garden 
of this fascinating kind, was this : that Mahomet having pro 
mised to those who should obey his will the enjoyments of 
Paradise, where every species of sensual gratification should 
be found, in the society of beautiful nymphs, he was desirous 
of its being understood by his followers that he also was a 
prophet and the compeer of Mahomet, and had the power of 
admitting to Paradise such as he should choose to favour. In 
order that none without his licence might find their way into 
this delicious valley, he caused a strong and inexpugnable 
castle to be erected at the opening of it, through which the 
entry was by a secret passage. At his court, likewise, this 
chief entertained a number of youths, from the age of twelve 
to twenty years, selected from the inhabitants of the surround 
ing mountains, who showed a disposition for martial exer 
cises, and appeared to possess the quality of daring courage. 
To them he was in the daily practice of discoursing on the sub 
ject of the paradise announced by the prophet, and of his own 
power of granting admission; and at certain times he caused 
opium to be administered to ten or a dozen of the youths ; and 
when half dead with sleep he had them conveyed to the several 
apartments of the palaces in the garden. Upon awakening 
from the state of lethargy, their senses were struck with all 
the delightful objects that have been described, and each per 
ceived himself surrounded by lovely damsels, singing, playing, 
and attracting his regards by the most fascinating caresses, 
serving him also with delicate viands and exquisite wines; 
until intoxicated with excess of enjoyment amidst actual 
rivulets of milk and wine, he believed himself assuredly in 
Paradise, and felt an unwillingness to relinquish its delights. 

7 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

When four or five days had thus been passed, they were 
thrown once more into a state of somnolency, and carried out of 
the garden. Upon their being introduced to his presence, and 
questioned by him as to where they had been, their answer 
was, In Paradise, through the favour of your highness: " 
and then before the whole court, who listened to them with 
eager curiosity and astonishment, they gave a circumstantial 
account of the scenes to which they had been witnesses. The 
chief thereupon addressing them, said: " We have the assur 
ances of our prophet that he who defends his lord shall inherit 
Paradise, and if you show yourselves devoted to the obedience 
of my orders, that happy lot awaits you." Animated to 
enthusiasm by words of this nature, all deemed themselves 
happy to receive the commands of their master, and were 
forward to die in his service. 1 The consequence of this 
system was, that when any of the neighbouring princes, or 
others, gave umbrage to this chief, they were put to death by 
these his disciplined assassins; none of whom felt terror at 
the risk of losing their own lives, which they held in little 
estimation, provided they could execute their master s will. 
On this account his tyranny became the subject of dread in 
all the surrounding countries. He had also constituted two 
deputies or representatives of himself, of whom one had his 
residence in the vicinity of Damascus, and the other in Kur 
distan; 2 and these pursued the plan he had established for 
training their young dependants. Thus there was no person, 
however powerful, who, having become exposed to the enmity 
of the old man of the mountain, could escape assassination. 
His territory being situated within the dominions of Ulati 
(Hulagu), the brother of the grand khan (Mangu), that prince 
had information of his atrocious practices, as above related, 
as well as of his employing people to rob travellers in their 

1 This story was the current belief of the people of Asia, who seem to 
have thought it necessary to assign extraordinary causes for an effect so 
surprising as that of the implicit devotion of these religious enthusiasts 
to the arbitrary will of their master. The name of Assassins, given to 
these people by other writers, is not found in Marco Polo. 

* I cannot discover any traces of an establishment of Ismaelians, under 
a regular chief, in Kurdistan, although dais or missionaries of the sect 
were frequently employed there; but of the existence of the subordinate 
government in Syria here mentioned we have ample testimony. (See 
De Sacy, Memoire, p. 6, and De Guignes, Hist. gen. des Huns, liv. vi. 
p. 342.) I am the more particular in citing these authorities, to prove, in 
confirmation of what Marco Polo asserts, that the Persian was the original 
government, although the Syrian branch became better known in Europe, 
and to its sheikhs the title of " old man of the mountain " seems to have 
been generally if not exclusively applied. 

The Road to Sapurgan 77 

passage through his country, and in the year 1262 sent one 
of his armies to besiege this chief in his castle. It proved,, 
however, so capable of defence, that for three years no im 
pression could be made upon it; until at length he was forced 
to surrender from the want of provisions, and being made 
prisoner was put to death. His castle was dismantled, and 
his garden of Paradise destroyed. 1 And from that time there 
has been no old man of the mountain. 



LEAVING this castle, the road leads over a spacious plain, 
and then through a country diversified with hill and dale, 
where there is herbage and pasture, as well as fruits in great 
abundance, by which the army of Ulau was enabled to remain 
so long upon the ground. This country extends to the dis 
tance of full six days journey. It contains many cities and 
fortified places, 2 and the inhabitants are of the Mahometan 

1 The circumstances attending the destruction of this sect, which, as 
we have seen in the preceding notes, had erected itself into an indepen 
dent sovereignty, are noticed by Abu lfaraj, Hist. Dynast, p. 330, as well 
as by others amongst the Oriental writers, who record the actions of the 
descendants of Jengiz-khan, but by none with so much historical detail 
as by Mirkhond, whose account of the dynasty of the Ismaelians of Persia 
was translated and published at Paris, together with the original text, by 
M. Jourdain. With regard to the date of 1262, which our author assigns 
to the commencement of these operations, there must be a mistake of 
about six years, as all the historians agree that Hulagu s expedition 
against the Mulhedites was prior to that against Baghdad, and the latter 
is known with sufficient certainty to have fallen in the year 1258. We 
have, at the same time, the circumstantial authority of Mirkhond for the 
reduction of the castles of the former in the years 1256 and 1257. This 
and similar inaccuracies of Marco Polo may be excused on the ground 
that the events having happened many years before the commencement 
of his travels, he must have depended upon the information of others for 
their dates, which may have been expressed according to modes of reckon 
ing that required a calculation to reduce them to the Christian era. 

a From Damaghan his course was nearly east, or in the direction of 
Balkh, and seems to have lain through Jan-Jerm and Nishapur towards 
Meru-ar-rud; but the number of days journeys is evidently too small, 
unless we can suppose him to have travelled at double the rate of the 
ordinary caravans, or full forty miles per day; which is less probable 
than that an omission of some stages has been made in the narrative. 

78 Travels of Marco Polo 

religion. A desert then commences, extending forty or fifty 
miles/ where there is no water; and it is necessary that the 
traveller should make provision of this article at his outset. 
As the cattle find no drink until this desert is passed, the 
greatest expedition is necessary, that they may reach a water 
ing place. At the end of the sixth day s journey, 2 he arrives 
at a town named Sapurgan, 3 which is plentifully supplied 
with every kind of provision, and is particularly celebrated for 
producing the best melons in the world. These are preserved 
in the following manner. They are cut spirally, in thin slices, 
as the pumpkin with us, and after they have been dried in the 
sun, are sent, in large quantities, for sale, to the neighbouring 
countries; where they are eagerly sought for, being sweet as 
honey. 4 Game is also in plenty there, both of beasts and birds. 
Leaving this place, we shall now speak of another named 
Balach; a large and magnificent city. 5 It was formerly still 
more considerable, but has sustained much injury from the 
Tartars, who in their frequent attacks have partly demolished 
its buildings. It contained many palaces constructed of 
marble, and spacious squares, still visible, although in a ruin 
ous state. 6 It was in this city, according to the report of 

1 The country of Khorasan, through which the route, wnetner from 
Alamut or from Damaghan to the place next mentioned must have lain, 
is said to be in general level, intersected with sandy deserts and irregular 
ridges of lofty mountains. 

2 It is quite necessary to the sense that this should mean six days 
journey from the eastern side of the desert just mentioned. 

* Of the identity of this place, which at first might seem to be intended 
for Nishapur, there can be no doubt. Cheburgan, ville de Corassane, 
pres du Gihon et de Bale," says Petis de la Croix, the translator of Shere- 
feddin, " a 100 degres de long, et 36 45 de latitude." In the tables oi 
Nassir-eddin, from which the above situation is taken, it is named Ash- 
burkan; in D Anville s map, Ashburgan; in Strathlenberg s, Chaburga; 
in Macdonald Kinneir s, Subbergan; and in Elphinstone s, Shibbergaun. 
By the last writer it is spoken of as a dependency of the government oi 

4 The province of Khorasan is celebrated by all the eastern writers for 
the excellence of its fruits, and the importance here given to its melons 
is fully supported by the authority of Chardin. (Tom. ii. p. 19, 4to.) 
On the subject of the melon du Khorasan," see also Relation de 
TEgypte, notes, p. 126. 

6 Balach or Balkh, the " Bactra regia " of Ptolemy, which gave name 
to the province of Bactriana, of which it was the capital, is situated to 
wards the heads of the Oxus, in the north-eastern extremity of Khorasan. 
It is one of the four royal cities of that province, and has been the seat 
of government perhaps more frequently even than Nishapur, Herat, or 

Jengiz-khan, who took this city by assault in 1221, from the Khoraz- 
mians, caused ah the inhabitants to be massacred (as we are told by his 
historian, Abu lghazi) and the walls to be razed to their foundation. In 
1369 it was taken from the descendants of that conqueror by Tamerlane, 

Desolation of Balkh 79 

the inhabitants, that Alexander took to wife the daughter of 
king Darius. 1 The Mahometan religion prevails here also. 2 
The dominion of the lord of the Eastern Tartars extends to this 
place; and to it the limits of the Persian empire extend, in a 
north-eastern direction. 3 Upon leaving Balach and holding 
the same course for two days, you traverse a country that is 
destitute of every sign of habitation, the people having all fled 
to strong places in the mountains, in order to secure them 
selves against the predatory attacks of lawless marauders, by 
whom these districts are overrun. Here are extensive waters, 
and game of various kinds. Lions are also found in these 
parts, 4 very large and numerous. Provisions, however, are 
scarce in the hilly tract passed during these two days, and the 
traveller must carry with him food sufficient both for himself 
and his cattle. 

whose family possessed it until they were obliged to give place to the 
Uzbek Tartars, between whom and the Persians it was subsequently 
the subject of perpetual contention. " All the Asiatics," Elphinstone 
observes, " are impressed with an idea of its being the oldest city in the 
world. . . . This ancient metropolis is now reduced to insignificance. 
Its ruins still cover a great extent, and are surrounded with a wall, but 
only one corner is inhabitated." (P. 464.) The houses are described 
by Macdonald Kinneir as being of brick, and the palace of the khan, an 
extensive building, nearly all of marble, brought from quarries in the 
neighbouring mountains. 

1 The Persian marriages of Alexander with Barsine or Statira, the 
daughtei of Darius, and with Parisatis, the daughter of Ochus, are gener 
ally understood to have taken place at Susa. 

* Abu lghazi informs us that at the time of the destruction of Balkh by 
Jengiz-khan, it contained no fewer than 12,000 mosques; which, although 
an exaggeration, shows at least the prevalence of Islamism in that city. 

3 Khorasan being so frequently subject to Persian dominion, and 
particularly under the descendants of Hulagu, who possessed it at the 
time our author travelled there, it was natural for him to consider it as 
an integral part of the Persian empire. Balkh is correctly stated as 
lying on the north-eastern frontier. The Latin says, " usque ad istam 
terrain durat dominium domini de Levante." 

4 Chardin enumerates lions amongst the wild animals of Persia, and 
especially in the frontier provinces. Par tout ou il y a des bois," he 
says, " cornme en Hircanie et en Curdistan, il y a beaucoup de betes sau- 
vages, des lions, des ours, des tigres, des leopards, des porc-epy, et des 
sangliers." Tom. ii. p. 29, 4to. 

80 Travels of Marco Polo 



AT the end of these two days journey you reach a castle named 
Thaikan, where a great market for corn is held, it being situated 
in a fine and fruitful country. The hills that lie to the south 
of it are large and lofty. 1 They all consist of white salt, ex* 
tremely hard, with which the people, to the distance of thirty 
days journey round, come to provide themselves, for it is 
esteemed the purest that is found in the world; but it is at the 
same time so hard that it cannot be detached otherwise than 
with iron instruments. 2 The quantity is so great that all the 
countries of the earth might be supplied from thence. Other 
hills produce almonds and pistachio nuts, 3 in which articles 
the natives carry on a considerable trade. Leaving Thaikan 

1 This account of Thaikan or Taikan (written Caycam in the manu 
scripts, and Taitham in the Italian epitomes), which is situated amongst 
the sources of the Oxus, will be found remarkably correct. " Of Tok- 
harestan," says Ibn Haukal, " the largest city (t&wn) is Taikan, situated 
on a plain in the vicinity of mountains. It is watered by a considerable 
river, and has many orchards and gardens." (P. 224.) " From Taikan 
to Badakshan is seven days journey." (P. 230.) See also Abulfeda. 
These authors clearly distinguish it from a place named Taikan, lying 
south-west of Balkh, near Meru-er-rud, and situated on a steep rock; 
but Edrisi gives to the former the name of Taikan, and has been followed 
by modern geographers, and particularly by D Anville, in whose map 
both places are written with the same letters. " Their course," says 
Lieut. Macartney, speaking of the streams of the Oxus, near whose junc 
tion Talikan (or Taikan) stands, " is through a mountainous country, 
but containing many excessively rich and fertile valleys, producing all 
kinds of fruit in the greatest abundance." Elphinstone s Account of 
Caubul, Appendix, p. 650. 

8 This kind of hard fossil salt is found in several parts, and is thus de 
scribed by Chardin: " Dans la Medie et a Ispahan le sel se tire des mines, 
et on le transporte par gros quartiers, comme la pierre de taille. II est 
si dure en des endroits, comme dans la Caramanie deserte (Kirman) 
qu on en employe les pierres dans la construction des maisons des pauvres 
gens." (Tom. ii. p. 23.) " The road beyond," says Elphinstone, speak 
ing of a place in the country of the Afghans, " was cut out of solid salt, 
at the foot of cliffs of that mineral, in some places more than one hundred 
feet high above the river. The salt is hard, clear, and almost pure." 
Account of Caubul, p. 37. 

3 Both almonds and pistachio nuts are enumerated by Chardin amongst 
the productions of the northern and eastern parts of Persia. " II croit 
cles pistaches a Casbin et aux environs. ... Us ont de plus les 
amandes, les noisettes, etc. Le plus grand transport de fruits se fait de 
Yesde." Tom. ii. p. 21. 

The Town of Scassem 8 1 


and travelling three days, still in a north-east direction, you 
pass through a well inhabited country, very beautiful, and 
abounding in fruit, corn, and vines. The people are Mahome 
tans, and are blood-thirsty and treacherous. They are given 
also to debauchery, and to excess in drink, to which the excel 
lence of their sweet wine encourages them. 1 On their heads 
they wear nothing but a cord, about ten spans in length, with 
which they bind them round. They are keen sportsmen, and 
take many wild animals, wearing no other clothing than the 
skins of the beasts they kill, of which materials their shoes 
also are made. They are all taught to prepare the skins. 




DURING a journey of three days there are cities and many 
castles, and at the end of that distance you reach a town named 
Scassem, 2 governed by a chief whose title is equivalent to 

1 This country has since been overrun by a different race of people. 
" The Uzbeks," says Elphinstone, " first crossed the Jaxartes about the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, and pouring on the possessions of 
the descendants of Tamerlane," who were themselves invaders, " soon 
drove them from Bokhaura, Khoarizm, and Ferghauna, and spread 
terror and dismay to the remotest parts of their extended empire. They 
now possess besides Bulkh (Balkh), the kingdoms of Khoarizm (or Or- 
gunge), Bokhaura and Ferghauna, and perhaps some other little countries 
on this side of Beloot Taugh. I am told that they are to be found beyond 
Beloot Taugh, and as far east as Khoten at least; but of this I cannot 
speak with confidence. They belong to that great division of the human 
race which is known in Asia by the name of Toork^and which, with the 
Moghuls and Manshoors, compose what we call the l artar nation. Each 
of these divisions has its separate language, and that of the Toorks is 
widely diffused throughout the west of Asia." Account of Caubul, 
p. 465. 

2 This name, which in the Latin texts as well as in that of Ramusio is 
Scassem, and in the Italian epitomes Echasem, is evidently the Keshem 
of D Anville s map, and the Kishm-abad of Elphinstone s, situated near 
the Ghori river which falls into the Oxus, and somewhat to the eastward 
of the meridian of Kabul or Caubul. Ibn Haukal, who describes it 
immediately after speaking of Taikan, and before he enters upon Badakh- 
shan, names it Khesh, and says it is " the largest town in this mountain 
ous country." J. R. Forster (Voyages in the North, p. 125) supposes 
Scassem to be Al-shash, on the river Sirr or Jaxartes, but against all pro 
bability, considering its vast distance from the last mentioned place; 
whilst Keshern or Kishm is not only in the vicinity, but in the direct route 
to that which is next described. 

82 Travels of Marco Polo 

that of our barons or counts; and amongst the mountains he 
possesses other towns and strong places. Through the midst 
of this town runs a river of tolerable size. Here are found 
porcupines, which roll themselves up when the hunters set 
their dogs at them, and with great fury shoot out the quills 
or spines with which their skins are furnished, wounding both 
men and dogs. The people of this country have their pecu 
liar language. The herdsmen who attend the cattle have 
their habitations amongst the hills, in caverns they form for 
themselves ; nor is this a difficult operation, the hills consisting, 
not of stone, but only of clay. Upon departing from this place 
you travel for three days without seeing any kind of building, 
or meeting with any of the necessaries required by a traveller, 
excepting water; but for the horses there is sufficient pasture. 
You are therefore obliged to carry with you every article for 
which there may be occasion on the road. At the end of the 
third day you arrive at the province of Balashan. 1 



IN the province of Balashan, the people are Mahometans, 
and have their peculiar language. It is an extensive kingdom, 
being in length full twelve days journey, and is governed by 
princes in hereditary succession, who are all descended from 
Alexander, by the daughter of Darius, king of the Persians. 

1 This place is unquestionably Badakhshan, as the name is correctly 
written by Ibn Haukal and other geographers, although often pro 
nounced Balakhshan. By D Herbelot its situation is thus described: 
" Badakschian et Balakhschian, pays qui fait une partie de la province 
de Thokharestan, et qui s etend vers la tete du fleuve Gihon ou Oxus, 
par lequel il est borne du cote du levant et du septentrion." Budukh- 
shaun," says Elphinstone, in his Account of Caubul, " though an exten 
sive country, seems to be but one great valley running up from the pro 
vince of Bulkh (Balkh) to Beloot Taugh, between the islands connected 
with the Pamere and the range of Hindoo Koosh." P. 628. 

The Province of Balashan 8 3 

All these have borne the title in the Saracenic tongue of Zul- 
karnen, being equivalent to Alexander. 1 In this country are 
found the precious stones called balass rubies, of fine quality 
and great value, so called from the name of the province. 2 
They are imbedded in the high mountains, but are searched 
for only in one, named Sikinan. 3 In this the king causes 
mines to be worked, in the same manner as for gold or silver; 
and through this channel alone they are obtained; no person 
daring under pain of death, to make an excavation for the 
purpose, unless as a special favour he obtains his majesty s 

1 Abu lfazl, speaking of the districts of Sewad and Bijore, which he 
describes as consisting of hills and wilds, and inhabited by the tribe of 
Yousef Zy, proceeds to say: " In the time of Mirza Ulugh Beg (1450), 
the tribe of Sultan, who assert themselves to be the descendants of the 
daughter of Sultan Secunder Zulkernain, came from Cabul, and possessed 
themselves of this country. They say that Secunder left treasure in 
Cabul under the care of some of his relations; and some of their descen 
dants, who carry their genealogical table in their hands, now dwell in the 
mountainous parts." (Ayin Akbari, vol. ii. p. 195.) This filiation is 
also noticed by Lieut. Macartney, who says in his Memoir: " The king 
of Derwauz (near the sources of the Oxus) claims his descent from Alex 
ander the Great, and his pretensions are admitted by all his neighbours." 
(Account of Caubul, App. p. 628.) It is almost unnecessary to observe 
that the word zul -karnein signifies " having horns," and that it was 
given by the orientals to Alexander, whom they name Sekunder, from 
the appearance of his head on the Greek coins, which long circulated, 
and were afterwards initated, in Persia. 

a Every writer who has treated of this country, mentions its two pro 
ductions, the balass ruby (classed by the orientals as a species of hyacinth) 
and the lapis lazuli. " Badakhshan," says Ibn Haukal, " produces the 
ruby (ladl), and lapis lazuli (lajawa-rd). The mines are in the mountains." 
(P. 225.) " C est dans ses mpntagnes," says D Herbelot, " que se trouve 
la mine des rubis que les orientaux appellent Badakhschiani et Balakh- 
schiani, et que nous nommons rubis balays." " The part of Beloot 
Taugh within Budukhshaun," says Elphinstone, " produces iron, salt, 
and sulphur, as well as abundance of lapis lazuli; but the celebrated 
mines of rubies, which occasion Budukhshaun to be so often alluded to 
by the Persian poets, are situated in the lower hills near the Oxus. They 
are not now wrought." P. 629. 

* It may be thought a vain attempt to find corresponding authority 
for the name of the particular mountain from whence these stones were 
procured; but one which strongly resembles that of Sikinan presents 
itself as belonging to a district in the vicinity of the places of which we 
have been speaking. The river Jihun (or Oxus)," says Ibn Haukal, 
" rises within the territories of Badakhshan, and receives the waters of 
many other streams. . . . The Wekhshab comes out of Turkestan 
into the land of Wekhsh, near a mountain where there is a bridge between 
Khotlan and the borders of Weish-kird (the Vash-gherd of D Anville). 
. . . Near Wekhsh there are some districts (of Mawaralnahr), such as 
Dekhan and Sekineh: these two belong to the infidels. . . . There 
are mines of gold and silver in Wekhshab." (P. 239.) By " infidels " 
are probably here meant the race of people named Kafirs, whose country 
and peculiarities are described in the Appendix to Elphinstone s Account 
of Caubul, under the head of Caufiristaun, p. 617; and whom some sup 
pose to be the descendants of the Greeks of Bactriana, 

8 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

licence. Occasionally the king gives them as presents tc 
strangers who pass through his dominions, as they are not 
procurable by purchase from others, and cannot be exported 
without his permission. His object in these restrictions is, 
that the rubies of his country, with which he thinks his credit 
connected, should preserve their estimation and maintain 
their high price; for if they could be dug for indiscriminately, 
and every one could purchase and carry them out of the king 
dom, so great is their abundance, that they would soon be of 
little value. Some he sends as complimentary gifts to other 
kings and princes ; some he delivers as tribute (to his superior 
lord); and some also he exchanges for gold and silver. These 
he allows to be exported. There are mountains likewise in 
which are found veins of lapis lazuli, the stone which yields the 
azure colour (ultramarine), 1 here the finest in the world. 
The mines of silver, copper, and lead, are likewise very pro 
ductive. It is a cold country. The horses bred here are of 
a superior quality, and have great speed. Their hoofs are so 
hard that they do not require shoeing. 2 The natives are in 
the practice of galloping them on declivities where other cattle 
could not or would not venture to run. They asserted that 
not long since there were still found in this province horses of 
the breed of Alexander s celebrated Bucephalus, which were 
all foaled with a particular mark in the forehead. The whole 
of the breed was in the possession of one of the king s uncles, 
who, upon his refusal to yield them to his nephew, was put to 
death; whereupon his widow, exasperated at the murder, 
caused them all to be destroyed; and thus the race was lost to 
the world. In the mountains there are falcons of the species 
called saker (falco sacer), which are excellent birds, and of 
strong flight; as well as of that called laner, (falco lanarius). 
There are also goshawks of a perfect kind (falco astur, or 
palumbarius), and sparrow hawks (falco nisus). The people 
of the country are expert at the chase both of beasts and birds. 
Good wheat is grown there, and a species of barley without 

1 Speaking of Badakhshan, Abulfeda says: " Inde effertur ol lazurd 
et ol bellaur, seu lapis lazuli et beryllus." (Geogr. p. 352.) See also a 
passage to the same effect, from Ibn Haukal, in note 2 , p. 83. 

* Elphinstone observes that by far the best breeding country (for 
horses) in the Caubul dominions is Bulkh (Balkh), and it is from that 
province (bordering on Badakhshan) and the Toorkmun country lower 
down the Oxus, that the bulk of those exported are brought." (P. 296.) 
The practice of shoeing horses seems to be unnecessary where the country 
is not stony nor particularly hard. In Sumatra they are never shodden, 
nor in Java, excepting in some instances for the paved streets of Batavia 


Productions of Balashan 85 

the husk. 1 There is no oil of olives, but they express if from 
certain nuts, and from the grain called sesame, 2 which re 
sembles the seed of flax, excepting that it is light-coloured; 
and the oil this yields is better, and has more flavour than any 
other. It is used by the Tartars and other inhabitants of 
these parts. 

In this kingdom there are many narrow defiles, and strong 
situations, which diminish the apprehension of any foreign 
power entering it with a hostile intention. The men are 
good archers and excellent sportsmen; generally clothing 
themselves with the skins of wild animals; other materials 
for the purpose being scarce. The mountains afford pasture 
for an innumerable quantity of sheep, which ramble about in 
flocks of four, five, and six hundred, all wild; and although 
many are taken and killed, there does not appear to be any 
diminution. 3 These mountains are exceedingly lofty, inso 
much that it employs a man from morning till night to ascend 
to the top of them. Between them there are wide plains 
clothed with grass and with trees, and large streams of the 
purest water precipitating themselves through the fissures of 
the rocks. In these streams are trout and many other delicate 
sorts of fish. On the summits of the mountains the air is so 
pure and so salubrious, that when those who dwell in the towns, 
and in the plains and valleys below, find themselves attacked 
with fevers or other inflammatory complaints, they immedi 
ately remove thither, and remaining for three or four days in 
that situation, recover their health. Marco Polo affirms that 
he had experience in his own person of its excellent effects; 
for having been confined by sickness, in this country, for 
nearly a year, 4 he was advised to change the air by ascending 
the hills; when he presently became convalescent. A pecu 
liar fashion of dress prevails amongst the women of the superior 

1 The barley here described is the kind known by the appellations of 
hordeum nudum t hordeum glabrum, and hordeum vulgare semi-nidus decor- 
ticatis. Our author s expression of senza scorza is exactJy therefore the 
specific name given to it by Linnaeus. 

2 In India oil is chiefly procured from this grain, the sesamum orientate. 
Both walnuts and hazel nuts, from which oil may be extracted^ are found 
in the northern parts of Persia. 

8 " Les provinces de Perse les plus abondantes en bStail," says Chardin, 
sont la Bactriane, etc. J y ai vu des troupeaux de moutons qui couv- 
roient quatre & cinq lieues de pais." Tom. ii. p. 29, 4to. 

4 The residence in Badakhshan to which our author here adverts, 
must have taken place at the period when he was sent on a mission by 
the emperor Kublai to the province of Khorasan or of Khorasmia, oi 
which mention is made in the latter part of the first chapter. 

86 Travels of Marco Polo 

class, who wear below their waists, in the manner of drawers, 
a kind of garment, in the making of which they employ, accord 
ing to their means, an hundred, eighty, or sixty ells of fine cotton 
cloth ; which they also gather or plait, in order to increase the 
apparent size of their hips; those being accounted the most 
handsome who are the most bulky in that part. 1 



LEAVING Balashan and travelling in a southerly direction 
for ten days, you reach the province of Bacia, 3 the people of 
which have a peculiar language. They worship idols; are of 
a dark complexion, and of evil disposition; and are skilled in 
the art of magic, and the invocation of demons, a study to 
which they continually apply themselves. They wear in 
their ears pendent rings of gold and silver, adorned with 
pearls and precious stones. 3 The climate of the province is 

1 In describing the dress worn by the Belooche women, Pottinger says : 
" Their trowsers are preposterously wide, and made of silk, or a fabrica 
tion of that and cotton mixed." Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde, 

p. 65. 

2 From the southerly, or rather south-easterly, situation of this place 
with respect to the province of Badakhshan, its distance of about two 
hundred miles, and other circumstances, I should infer that by Bascia 
(in the epitomes Bassia) is meant Paishore or Peshawer, a city not far 
from the principal confluence of the rivers that form the Sind or Indus. 
It is described by Forster as large and populous, and in consequence of 
its well chosen position an important mart, the residence of wealthy 
merchants. He says, indeed, that it was founded by Akbar, whose 
reign began in 1556; but although that enlightened monarch might have 
improved Paishore, and did actually found Attok, lower down on the 
river, there is evidence in his own Institutes that the former was in exist 
ence before his time. It is there said: " Bekram, commonly called 
Paishore, enjoys a delightful spring season. Here is a temple called 
Gorekehtery, a place of religious resort, particularly for jowgies." (Ayin 
Akbari, vol. ii. p. 205.) This is not the description of a city of recent 
date; nor if built by his master, would Abu lfazl have mentioned it in 
such slight terms. It is probable upon the whole that Forster applied 
to Paishore what he had been told of Attok. 

3 It is evident that the people here described, if not actually Indians, 
are nearly allied to them. " The houses, food, and habits of life of the 
tribes of Peshawer," says Elphinstone, " resemble those of the Eusofzyes. 
The dress has also some resemblance, being a mixture of that of the 
Indians with that of the Afghauns." P. 359. 

The Province of Kesmur 87 

in some parts extremely hot. 1 The food of the inhabitants is 
meat and rice. 2 



Kesmur is a province distant from Bascia seven days journey. 3 
Its inhabitants also have their peculiar language. 4 They ar 
adepts beyond all others in the art of magic; insomuch that 
they can compel their idols, although by nature dumb and 
deaf, to speak; they can likewise obscure the day, and per 
form many other miracles. They are pre-eminent amongst the 

1 " The heat of Peshour," says Forster, " seemed to me more intense 
than that of any other country I have visited in the upper parts of 
India. . . . The atmosphere in the summer solstice becomes almost 
inflammable." (Vol. ii. p. 50.) " Peshawer," says Elphinstone, is 
situated in a low plain, surrounded on all sides except the east with hills. 
The air is consequently much confined, and the heat greatly increased. 
In the summer of 1809 . . . the thermometer was for several days at 
112 and 113, in a large tent artificially cooled." P. 132. 

a " The markets," Forster adds, " are abundantly supplied with pro 
visions of an excellent kind, particularly the mutton, which is the flesh 
of the large-tailed sheep." -P. 50. 

8 Kesmur or Chesmur (Chesimur in the Latin versions and Cassimur 
in the Italian epitomes) is undoubtedly intended for Kashmir. The 
distance, indeed, from Paishore or Peshawer, as it cannot be less than 
two hundred miles, and in a mountainous country, should be more than 
seven days journey; but we must not look for strict accuracy in this 
respect; and our own maps differ considerably in the relative position 
of the two places. For circumstantial accounts of this interesting 
country, the reader may consult the Ayin Akbari, Bernier s and Forster s 
Travels, Rennell s Memoir of a Map of Hindoostan, and Elphinstone s 
Account of Caubul. In the ages in which our author wrote its popula 
tion appears to have been chiefly Hindu; as in more ancient times it was 
esteemed one of the principal seats of that religion and of Sanskrit litera 
ture. The wealth derived from its celebrated manufacture, and its 
idolatrous sanctity, tempted the avarice, and roused the fanatic zeal of 
the Mahometans, by whom it was invaded at an early period; but as it 
did not fall under the dominion of Jengiz-khan or his immediate suc 
cessors, it is here spoken of as an independent kingdom. 

4 " The language of Kashmir," says Forster, " evidently springs from 
the Sanskrit stock, and resembles in sound that of the Mahrattas." 
(P. 22.) " The Cashmerians," says Elphinstone, " are a distinct nation 
of the Hindoo stock, and differ in language and manners from all their 
neighbours." P. 506. 

Travels of Marco Polo 

idolatrous nations, and from them the idols, worshipped in 
other parts, proceed. 1 From this country there is a com 
munication by water with the Indian Sea. 2 The natives are 
of a dark complexion, but by no means black; and the women, 
although dark, are very comely. Their food is flesh, 3 with 
rice and other grains; yet they are in general of a spare 
habit. The climate is moderately warm. 4 In this province, 
besides the capital, there are many other towns and strong 
places. There are also woods, desert tracts, and difficult 
passes in the mountains, which give security to the inhabitants 
against invasion. 5 Their king is not tributary to any power. 
They have amongst them a particular class of devotees, who 
live in communities, observe strict abstinence in regard to 
eating, drinking, and the intercourse of the sexes, and refrain 
from every kind of sensual indulgence, in order that they 
may not give offence to the idols whom they worship. These 
persons live to a considerable age. They have several monas- 

1 This is consistent with what we are told in the Ayin Akbari, that 
" the Hindoos regard all Cashmeer as holy land, where forty-five places 
are dedicated to Mahadeo, sixty-four to Bishen, three to Brahma, and 
twenty-two to Durga (the goddess of mountains)." (Vol. ii. p. 156.) It 
is therefore by no means improbable that the Brahmins of this remote 
and sacred country may have supplied southern India with many of 
those images of their deities in stone and copper with which the temples 
abound: for idols of home manufacture, we may presume, have less 
honour in their own country than those imported from distant places of 
holy repute. 

8 " Most of the trade of the country," says the Ayin Akbari, " is carried 
on by water." The river Jeilum or Behut, which flows through the 
valley of Kashmir, and is there navigable, falls into the Indus, after 
uniting its waters with those of the Chenab and the Ravi, not far from 
the city of Multan: but as its course, after leaving that valley, is through 
a mountainous country, the navigation must be interrupted in some 

3 If the population of Kashmir was at that time Hindu, as we have 
every reason to suppose, although it had been occasionally subdued by 
Mahometans, it may be thought difficult to reconcile to the customs of 
those people what is here said of their food consisting in part of flesh; 
but in fact, the Hindu castes are not practically so strict in regard to 
meats, as the precepts of their religion would lead us to believe. Add 
to this, that the Kashmirians being noted at all periods for their light 
and dissolute character, it is not among them (however holy their land) 
that we are to look for a strict observance of the Vedas. 

4 The temperateness of its climate has always been a subject of pane 
gyric, and was the occasion of its being the summer residence of the 
Moghtil emperors of Hindustan. " The whole of this soobah," says the 
Ayin Akbari, " represents a garden in perpetual spring." Vol. ii. p. 152. 

5 The valley of Kashmir, embosomed within the Hindu-koh of Indian 
Caucasus, is nearly surrounded by lofty mountains, and is consequently 
difficult of access to an army; but yet, from the unwarlike character of 
the natives, it has been exposed to frequent invasions. The fortifica 
tions with which nature has furnished it," Abu lfazl adds, are of an 
astonishing height." 

The Inhabitants of Kesmur 

teries, in which certain superiors exercise the functions of our 
abbots, and by the mass of the people they are held in great 
reverence. 1 The natives of this country do not deprive any 
creature of life,, nor shed blood, and if they are inclined to eat 
flesh-meat, it is necessary that the Mahometans who reside 
amongst them should slay the animal. 2 The article of coral 
carried thither from Europe is sold at a higher price than in 
any other part of the world. 

If I were to proceed in the same direction, it would lead me 
to India; but I have judged it proper to reserve the descrip 
tion of that country for a third book; and shall therefore 
return to Balashan, intending to pursue from thence the 
straight road to Cathay, and to describe, as has been done 
from the commencement of the work, not only the countries 
through which the route immediately lies, but also those in 
its vicinity, to the right and left. 3 

1 These monks appear to resemble the talapoins of Ava and Siam, and 
gylongs of Tibet, who reside in communities, under the discipline of a 
superior, termed a sankra in the former countries, and a lama in the 
latter. Like them also they were evidently Buddhists; and although 
that proscribed sect may have since disappeared from Kashmir, as from 
most of the other provinces of Hindustan, Abu lfazl, who wrote in the 
sixteenth century, notices some remains of them in his days. " The 
third time," he says, " that the author followed the imperial stirrup to 
the delightful territory of Kashmir, he met with some old men of this 
religion." (Vol. iii. p. 158.) In another place he tells us that " the most 
respectable people of this country are the rishis, who although they do not 
suffer themselves to be fettered with traditions (stories of the Puranas), 
are doubtless true worshippers of God. They revile not any other sect, 
and ask nothing of any one; they plant the roads with fruit trees to 
furnish the traveller with refreshment; they abstain from flesh; and 
have no intercourse with the other sex. There are near two thousand 
of this sect in Kashmir." Vol. ii. p. 155. 

2 Abu lfazl, speaking of the priests of the religion of Buddha in Kashmir, 
observes, that although they will not kill an animal, they do not refuse 
any kind of food that is offered to them ; and whatever dies of itself they 
consider to be killed by God, and therefore eat it. (Vol. iii. p. 158.) 
Amongst the Hindus many castes are allowed to eat of certain kinds of 
animal food, who yet are restrained from shedding blood. 

3 Our author here gives a consistent and intelligible account, of the 
plan he pursues in his description of the several countries that came 
within the scope of his observation or knowledge; and it is only to be 
regretted that he has not drawn a clearer line of distinction between 
those places which he actually saw himself, and those respecting which 
he collected information from others. I am inclined to believe that he 
did not visit the Panjab (or country embraced by the streams which form 
the Indus), and that what he relates of Peshawer and Kashmir was 
furnished to him during his long residence of Badakhshan, by persons 
who frequented those places for the purposes of trade. 

90 Travels of Marco Polo 



LEAVING the province of Balashan, and travelling in a direc 
tion between north-east and east,, you pass many castles and 
habitations on the banks of the river,, belonging to the brother 
of the king of that place, and after three days journey, 
reach a province named Vokhan; which itself extends in 
length and width to the distance of three days journey. 1 
The people are Mahometans,, have a distinct language, are 
civilised in their manners, and accounted valiant in war. 
Their chief holds his territory as a fief dependent upon Bala- 

1 After having traced our author s line of description through countries 
where the writings of other travellers enabled us to recognise his steps, 
if we should now find ourselves in a region of greater uncertainty, the 
change is not to be attributed so much to any additional obscurity on 
his part, as to the want of corresponding information on ours, this tract 
being very imperfectly known to us. With respect, however, to the 
name and situation of Vokhan (the orthography of which differs little in 
the several versions), we are not entirely without lights, both ancient 
and modern. It is identified, in the first instance, by its connexion with 
a place named Weishgerd or Weishkird; concerning which Ibn Haukal 
says: " The river Wekhshab comes out of Turkestan, into the land of 
Wekhsh, near a mountain where there is a bridge between Khotlan and 
the borders of Weishkird. From that it runs towards Balkh, and falls 
into the Jihoon at Termed." (P. 239.) In the following passage from 
the work of Edrisi, we find the Vokhan of our text brought into contact 
with the places here mentioned: " De regionibus finitimis Vachas 
(Wekhsh or Wakhsh) et Gil, sunt Vachan (Vokhan) et Sacqita (Sakitah), 
in terra Tore. Inter Vachan et Tobbat intercedit iter octodecim dierum. 
In Vachan extant fodines argenti." (P. 141.) Weishgerd here appears 
to be the country intermediate between Badakhshan and Vokhan, which 
our author tells us was governed by a brother of the king of the former. 
What Edrisi states respecting this valley, as well as our author s account 
of it, are fully justified by the Memoir explaining the map prefixed to 
the Account of Caubul, where Lieut. Macartney, speaking of the river 
Ammu or Oxus, says: " This river . . . has its source from the high 
lands of Pamer. It issues from a narrow valley, two or three hundred 
yards broad, in Wukhan,the southern boundary of Pamer. This valley 
is inclosed on three sides by the high snowy mountain called Pooshtikbur, 
to the south, east, and west. The stream is seen coming from under the 
ice." (Appendix, p. 646.) The mere verification of the name and 
position of a district so secluded must be allowed to furnish an unex 
ceptionable test of the genuineness of our traveller s relation. 

The Province of Vokhan 91 

shan. They practise various modes of taking wild animals. 
Upon leaving this country, and proceeding for three days, 
still in an east-north-east course, ascending mountain after 
mountain, you at length arrive at a point of the road, where 
you might suppose the surrounding summits to be the highest 
lands in the world. Here, between two ranges, you perceive 
a large lake, from which flows a handsome river, that pursues 
its course along an extensive plain, covered with the richest 
verdure. Such indeed is its quality that the leanest cattle 
turned upon it would become fat in the course of ten days. 
In this plain there are wild animals in great numbers, parti 
cularly sheep of a large size, having horns, three, four, and 
even six palms in length. Of these the shepherds form ladles 
and vessels for holding their victuals; and with the same 
materials they construct fences for enclosing their cattle, and 
securing them against the wolves, with which, they say, the 
country is infested, and which likewise destroy many of these 
wild sheep or goats. 1 Their horns and bones being found in 
large quantities, heaps are made of them at the sides of the 
road, for the purpose of guiding travellers at the season when 
it is covered with snow. For twelve days the course is along 
this elevated plain, which is named Pamer; 2 and as during 
all that time you do not meet with any habitations, it is 
necessary to make provision at the outset accordingly. So 
great is the height of the mountains, that no birds are to be 
seen near their summits; and however extraordinary it may 
be thought, it was affirmed, that from the keenness of the air, 
fires when lighted do not give the same heat as in lower situa 
tions, nor produce the same effect in dressing victuals. 

After having performed this journey of twelve days, you 
have still forty days to travel in the same direction, over 
mountains, and through valleys, in perpetual succession, pass- 

1 From the length of the horns of these animals, and the uses to which 
they were applied, we might suppose them to be a species of ibex or 
mountain goat; and although called montoni in the first instance, they 
are afterwards spoken of as becchi or boucs. In Elphinstone s Account 
of Caubul, this conjecture is justified, where he says : " Goats are common 
in all the mountainous parts of the country, and are by no means scarce 
in the plains. Some breeds have remarkably long and curiously twisted 
horns." (P. 144.) J. Rh. Forster observes that these animals are 
termed mouflons and muffioni, by the French and Italian writers. 

* We find the elevated plain of Pamer, Pamire, or Pamir, in all the 
maps of Persia and the neighbouring countries. In that which accom 
panies Macdonald Kinneir s Geographical Memoir, it occupies a place 
corresponding to the bearings we should infer from our author s 

92 Travels of Marco Polo 

ing many rivers and desert tracts, without seeing any habita 
tions or the appearance of verdure. Every article of pro 
vision must therefore be carried along with you. This region 
is called Beloro. 1 Even amidst the highest of these moun 
tains, there live a tribe of savage, ill-disposed, and idolatrous 
people, who subsist upon the animals they can destroy, and 
clothe themselves with the skins. 




AT length you reach a place called Kashcar, which, it is said, 
was formerly an independent kingdom, but it is now subject 
to the dominion of the grand khan. 2 Its inhabitants are of 
the Mahometan religion. The province is extensive, and 
contains many towns and castles, of which Kashcar is the 
largest and most important. 3 The language of the people 
is peculiar to themselves. They subsist by commerce and 

1 This alpine region, named by eastern geographers Belur or Belor, is 
laid down in Strahlenberg s map, from whence, apparently, it has been 
transferred to those of D Anville; but its position relatively to Pamir 
and Badakhshan will be found still more conformable to our author s 
account, in the recent constructions of Macdonald Kinneir and Macart 
ney. With respect to the nature of the country, it is spoken of by Elphin- 
stone, in terms little differing from those employed in the text. " Izzut- 
Hoollah," he says, " gives a frightful picture of the cold and desolation 
of this elevated tract, which extends for three marches on the highest 
part of the country between Yarkund and Ley (or Ladauk)." Note, 
p. 113. 

2 Kashgar, or Kashghar, is a well-known city and emporium for the 
trade carried on between Tartary, India, and China. It is situated in 
that part of Turkistan which Europeans term the Lesser Bucharia, and 
was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It was amongst 
the places overrun by the irresistible arms of Jengiz-khan, and upon the 
division of his empire, was included in the patrimony of his son Jagatai. 
About a century after our author s time, it was conquered by Tamerlane; 
and, in 1683, by the Kontaish, or great khan of the Kalmucks, from 
whom the eastern part of the Lesser Bucharia was wrested, in 1718, by 
the Chinese. 

3 " Al Bergendi dit," says D Herbelot, qu elle est fort grande, et 
qu elle passe pour la capitale de tout le pays; que ses habitans spnt 
Mussulmans, et que beaucoup de scavans-hommes en sont sortis." 
Macdonald Kinneir s Itineraries speak of it as being situated on a well- 
cultivated plain, near a fine river, but not navigable, on the southern side 
of a range of mountains called Teeruck Duan. 

The City of Samarcan 93 

manufacture, particularly works of cotton. They have hand 
some gardens, orchards, and vineyards. Abundance of cotton 
is produced there, as well as flax and hemp. Merchants from 
this country travel to all parts of the world; but in truth they 
are a covetous, sordid race, 1 eating badly and drinking worse. 
Besides the Mahometans there are amongst the inhabitants 
several Nestorian Christians, who are permitted to live under 
their own laws, and to have their churches. The extent of 
the province is five days journey. 



SAMARCAN is a noble city, adorned with beautiful gardens, 
and surrounded by a plain, in which are produced all the 
fruits that man can desire. 2 The inhabitants, who are partly 
Christians and partly Mahometans, are subject to the dominion 
of a nephew of the grand khan, with whom, however, he is 
not upon amicable terms, but on the contrary there is per 
petual strife and frequent wars between them. 3 This city lies 

1 The people of Bucharia, in the central parts of Asia, appear to re 
semble, in their commercial habits and parsimony, the Armenians who 
frequent the principal cities of India, and whom Forster, in his Travels, 
describes as being industrious, servile, and dishonest; pursuing the 
different roads of traffic with unremitting ardour, and invariably measur 
ing their pleasures by the mere extent of their wealth. Vol. ii. p. 117. 

a It is obvious here, that in order to introduce the description of a 
place so important as Samarkand, which our author had probably visited 
in one of his official journeys, he departs from the course he was pur 
suing towards Kataia, and makes what may be considered as an excursion 
into the Greater Bucharia, or Transoxiana. This celebrated city was 
taken from the Persians by the khalif Walid in the year 704, and from 
the sultan of Khaurizm in 1220, by Jengiz-khan, who gave it up to pillage 
and destroyed many of its buildings. From this, however, it might have 
recovered in the course of fifty or sixty years that intervened before the 
period of which we are speaking. By Timur or Tamerlane it was re 
stored to all its ancient splendour, about the year 1370, and became the 
capital of his vast dominions; but falling subsequently into the hands 
of the Uzbek Tartars, with whom it remained at the close of the last 
century, its consequence had much declined. 

3 Kashgar being the place last mentioned, it might be presumed that 
he speaks of the bearing of Samarkand from thence, but as the actual 
direction, instead of being north-west (maestro), is nearly west-south 
west, we are justified in looking rather to Badakhshan, where he had 

94 Travels of Marco Polo 

in the direction of north-west. A miracle is said to have taken 
place there, under the following circumstances. Not long 
ago, a prince named Zagatai, who was own brother to the (then 
reigning) grand khan, became a convert to Christianity; 
greatly to the delight of the Christian inhabitants of the place, 
who under the favour and protection of the prince, proceeded 
to build a church, and dedicated it to St. John the Baptist. 
It was so constructed that all the weight of the roof (being 
circular) should rest upon a column in the centre, and beneath 
this, as a base, they fixed a square stone, which, with the per 
mission of the prince, they had taken from a temple belonging 
to the Mahometans, who dared not to prevent them from so 
doing. But upon the death of Zagatai, his son who succeeded 
him showing no disposition to become a Christian, the Mussul 
mans had influence enough to obtain from him an order that 
their opponents should restore to them the stone they had 
appropriated; and although the latter offered to pay them a 
compensation in money, they refused to listen to the proposal, 
because they hoped that its removal would occasion the church 
to tumble down. In this difficulty the afflicted Christians had 
no other resource than with tears and humility to recommend 
themselves to the protection of the glorious St. John the 
Baptist. When the day arrived on which they were to make 
restitution of the stone, it came to pass that through the inter 
cession of the Saint, the pillar raised itself from its base to the 
height of three palms, in order to facilitate the removal of the 
stone; and in that situation, without any kind of support, it 
remains to the present day, 1 Enough being said of this, we 
shall now proceed to the province of Karkan. 

long resided, and from whence he professes to begin his account of the 
route to Kataia. The latitude of Samarkand, as taken with the famous 
mural quadrant of Ulug Beig, the grandson of Tamerlane, is 39 37 N., 
and its longitude, as estimated by Major Rennell, is about 64 15 E. of 
Greenwich, or 7^ W. of Kashgar. By D Anville they are placed several 
degrees further to the eastward, 

1 This is one of the stories, in the way of episode, that have tended to 
bring our author s work into disrepute. Zagatai was in fact, as he says, 
the brother of Oktai, who succeeded his father as grand khan of the 
Moghuls; but we have no authority for his having embraced Christianity, 
although the Christians experienced much indulgence under Jengiz-khan 
and his immediate successors, and Mangu, his grandson, the nephew of 
Zagatai, is said by Rubruquis and Haitou to have been baptized. The 
text from which Marsden translated states that the circumstance referred 
to occurred a hundred and twenty-five years before this book was written, 
upon which he observes that, doubtful or improbable as the circumstance 
of Zagatai s conversion may be, the difficulty it occasions would be more 
easily surmounted than that of the anachronism; for as he began to 
reign about the year 1227, and died in 1240, the time elapsed at the 

The Province of Karkan 95 



DEPARTING from thence you enter the province of Karkan/ 
which continues to the distance of five days journey. Its 
inhabitants, for the most part Mahometans, with some Nes- 
torian Christians, are subjects of the grand khan. Provisions 
are here in abundance, as is also cotton. The people are 
expert artisans. They are in general afflicted with swellings 
in the legs, and tumours in the throat, occasioned by the 
quality of the water they drink. 2 In this country there is 
not anything further that is worthy of observation. 

period when Marco Polo s Travels were written could not be more than 
about seventy years, even if the event took place at the commencement 
of his reign; whereas the space of 125 years, as stated in the text, would 
carry it back to 1173, when his father was only nine years of age, and the 
family obscure. This species of absurd error I can neither account for 
nor palliate, otherwise than by supposing that the date, which does not 
appear in the Latin versions or Italian epitomes, has been an interpolation 
in one of the manuscripts followed by Ramusio. [All the early manu 
scripts agree in the phrase translated in the present edition non e gran 
tempo che non est magnum tempus quod il fu voir qu il ne a encore 
granment de tens que.] 

1 The visit to Samarkand being excursive, or put of the line of his 
present route, our author leads us back to a place in the Lesser Bucharia 
which at that time belonged to the kingdom of Kashgar, noticed in the 
preceding chapter. Carchan, or Karkan, was intended for the district, 
or rather its chief town, which is most generally known by the name of 
Yerken; although its orthography has been exposed to as much varia 
tion amongst the writers of latter times, as in the copies of our author s 
work. By the Portuguese missionary Benjamin Goez the word is written 
Hiarchan; by Du Halde, Yarkian; by Strahlenberg, in his map, Jerken, 
Hyarchan, or Gurkan; by D Anville, Jerken; by De Guignes, Yerken; 
and by our modern travellers from the side of Hindustan, Yarkund. 
" It appears," says Lieut. Macartney, " that after five days journey 
north-east of Cashmeer, an evident ascent commences, which is very 
great for three or four days journey, after which it is less on to Leh (or 
Ladak). The ascent continues even on to the great ridge which separates 
Tibet from Yarkund." Account of Caubul, p. 646. Appendix. 

2 The permanent cedematous swelling of the leg to a monstrous size is 
a disorder well known in several parts of the East, and vulgarly termed 
in India the " Cochin leg." For an account of this species of elephantiasis, 
see Cordiner s Description of Ceylon, vol. i. p. 182. Respecting the 
cause of those glandulous tumours at the throat called goitres, much has 
been written by travellers and medical persons, who in general attribute 
it to the quality of the water, although the notion of its preceding from 
snow-water has been exploded. I have elsewhere ventured to express 

9 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 



FOLLOWING a course between north-east and east, you next 
come to the province of Kotan, 1 the extent of which is eight 
days journey. It is under the dominion of the grand khan, 
and the people are Mahometans. It contains many cities 
and fortified places, but the principal city, and which gives 
its name to the province, is Kotan. Everything necessary for 
human life is here in the greatest plenty. It yields likewise 
cotton, flax, hemp, grain, wine, and other articles. The in 
habitants cultivate farms and vineyards, and have numerous 
gardens. 2 They support themselves also by trade and manu 
factures, but they are not good soldiers. We shall now speak 
of a province named Peyn. 

an opinion that these affections of the glands of the throat are occasioned 
by the dense mists which settle in the valleys between high mountains, 
and are not dispersed until a late hour of the day. (Hist, of Sumatra, 
3d edit., p. 48.) See an ingenious paper on this subject by Dr. Reeves, 
published in the Phil. Trans, for the year 1808, vol. xcviii. p. in. 

1 The name of Kotan is indubitably Khoten (the Yu-tien and Ho-tien 
of the Chinese, who soften the Tartar pronunciation), a place familiar 
to us, by name at least, as that from whence a great part of Asia is sup 
plied with musk, which the natives rank amongst the most exquisite 
perfumes, and the Persian poets never cease to extol. Beyond this cir 
cumstance our information concerning it is very imperfect. " Khoten," 
says Malcolm, " was formerly of some importance, and its chiefs are 
often mentioned. It was conquered, with Kashgar, Yarkund, and other 
provinces in the same quarter, by the Chinese, in 1757, and now forms 
part of that great empire. A respectable inhabitant of Tartary, who 
visited the town of Khoten about twenty years ago, describes it as in a 
flourishing state, though inferior in size to the city of Yarkund, from 
which it is distant about 140 miles. Khoten is still, according to this 
traveller s account, celebrated for its musk." Hist, of Persia, vol. i. 
p. 324, note. 

2 Although we do not meet with direct authority for the cultivation of 
the vine at Khoten, there can be little doubt of the fact, as we read of 
vineyards at Hami, or Khamil, to the eastward, as well as at Kashgar, 
to the northward of this place, and within the same canton or district. 

Singular Matrimonial Custom 97 



PEYN is a province of five days journey in extent, in the 
direction of east-north-east. 1 It is under the dominion of the 
grand khan, and contains many cities and strong places, the 
principal one of which is likewise named Peyn. Through this 
flows a river, and in its bed are found many of those stones 
called chalcedonies and jasper. 2 All kinds of provision are 
obtained here. Cotton also is produced in the country. The 
inhabitants live by manufacture and trade. They have this 
custom, that if a married man goes to a distance from home to 
be absent twenty days, his wife has a right, if she is inclined, 
to take another husband; and the men, on the same principle, 
marry wherever they happen to reside. All the before-men 
tioned provinces, that is to say, Kashcar, Kotan, Peyn, and as 
far as the desert of Lop, are within the limits of Turkistan. 3 
Next follows the province of Charchan. 

1 Our author s course of description now leads us to places situated on 
the eastern side of Khoten, and in the neighbourhood of the great sandy 
desert, where we are left without any guidance excepting the scanty 
notices with which he has furnished us. The situation assigned by 
D Anville to Peyn or Pe-yn (which in the epitomes is Poim or Poin), 
being seven degrees of longitude from Khoten, seems to be too far to the 
eastward, and to approach too nearly to the frontier of China. In this 
opinion, which applies equally to the intermediate places which are the 
subject of the following chapters, I am warranted by that of Major 
Rennell, who says: " I think that our maps are in a great error with 
respect to the positions of the countries lying between Bucharia and 
China; all of which, in my idea, have been made to recede too much 
from Bucharia towards China." Memoir of a Map of Hindustan, p. 191. 

2 The jasper, or a hard kind of stone resembling jasper, is noticed by 
several writers as the production of this part of Tartary ; and Goez speaks 
of its being procured from the bed of the river at Khoten, which may 
probably be the same stream that afterwards runs to Peyn. 

3 The eastern limits of Turkistan, or Turquestan, are not well denned; 
but it may be considered generally as extending throughout that tract 
of Central Asia in which dialects of the Turki or Turko-Tartarian language 
are spoken; and as the Bukhar or Buchanan, although much mixed 
with Persian words, is one of these dialects, it follows that our author is 
warranted in considering places that belong to what Europeans term the. 
Lesser Bucharia, and Eastern writers the kingdom of Kashgar, as form 
ing a part of Turkistan, which consequently reaches to the borders of the 
great desert of Kobi. For the convenience of geography, it is distin 
guished into Chinese and Independent Turkistan. separated from each 

Travels of Marco Polo 



CHARCHAN is also a province of Turkistan, lying in an east- 
north-east direction (from Peyn). In former times it was 
flourishing and productive, but has been laid waste by the 
Tartars. The people are Mahometans. Its chief city is like 
wise named Charchan. 1 Through this province run several 
large streams, in which also are found chalcedonies and jaspers, 
which are carried for sale to Cathay, 2 and such is their abun 
dance that they form a considerable article of commerce. 
The country from Peyn to this district, as well as throughout 
its whole extent, is an entire sand, 3 in which the water is for 
the most part bitter and unpalatable, although in particular 
places it is sweet and good. When an army of Tartars passes 
through these places, if they are enemies the inhabitants are 
plundered of their goods, and if friends their cattle are killed 
and devoured. For this reason, when they are aware of the 
approach of any body of troops, they flee, with their families 
and cattle, into the sandy desert, to the distance of two days 
journey, towards some spot where they can find fresh water, 

other by the great mountainous range of Belur-tag and Mush- tag or 
Imaus. Elphinstone refers to this division when he says: " Those 
(caravans from the side of India) which go to Chinese Toorkistaun, set 
off from Cashmeer and Peshawer: Caubul is the great mart of Inde 
pendent Toorkistaun." (Account of Caubul, p. 293.) [The words of 
the early Latin version are, " Sunt de magna Turchia."] 

Charchan (in Ramusio, Ciarcian; in the Basle edition and older 
Latin, Ciartiam; and in the Italian epitome, Ciarchian) appears to cor 
respond with the Schachan of Strahlenberg s map, although its situation 
seems to be rather that of Karashai. De Guignes speaks of a district 
named Chen-chen, to the south of Hami, and near the lake of Lop, which 
can be no other than this. See Hist. gen. des Huns, torn, i. part. ii. 

p. ii. 

2 The name of the place to which these jaspers are said to be carried 
is in Ramusio s text Ouchah or Oukah, but evidently by mistake. In 
the Basle edition the words are, " quos negotiators deferunt ad pro- 
vinciam Cathai," and in the manuscripts it is Catay: which is known to 
be the fact. 

3 In the Italian epitomes it is here said, rather more precisely: 
" Questa provincia e tutta piena de sabion per la mazor parte; e da 
Cata (Kataia) infino a Poin (Peyn) e molto sabion." 

The Town of Lop 99 

and are by that means enabled to subsist. From the same 
apprehension, when they collect their harvest, they deposit the 
grain in caverns amongst the sands; taking monthly from the 
store so much as may be wanted for their consumption; nor 
can any persons besides themselves know the places to which 
they resort for this purpose, because the tracks of their feet are 
presently effaced by the wind. Upon leaving Charchan the 
road lies for five days over sands, where the water is generally, 
but not in all places, bad. Nothing else occurs here that is 
worthy of remark. At the end of these five days you arrive at 
the city of Lop, on the borders of the great desert. 



THE town of Lop is situated towards the north-east, near the 
commencement of the great desert, which is called the Desert 
of Lop. 1 It belongs to the dominions of the grand khan, and 
its inhabitants are of the Mahometan religion. Travellers who 
intend to cross the desert usually halt for a considerable time 
at this place, as well to repose from their fatigues as to make 
the necessary preparations for their further journey. For this 
purpose they load a number of stout asses and camels with pro 
visions and with their merchandise. Should the former be 
consumed before they have completed the passage, they kill 

1 The lake of Lop appears in the Jesuits and D Anville s maps. In 
the latter we find also a town named " Tantabee ou Tankabash, resi 
dence de 1 ancieii khan de Tagazgaz, ville de Lop dans Marc- Paul ; " but his 
authority for this supposition does not appear. " Ces deux villes dont 
je viens de parler," says De Guignes, speaking of Ciatiam (or Charchan) 
and Lop, paroissent Stre les inemes que celles de Kantcheou et de 
Harikiun-tcheou, que les envoyes Chinois trouverent dans leur route 
de Cha-tcheou a Khoten, mais il me paroit impossible d en assigner 
la veritable position." (P. 17.) Instead of the name of Lop, which 
this desert bears in Ramusio s as well as in most of the other versions, 
the word in the early Italian epitomes is Job; and this variation of 
orthography gives rise to the conjecture that it may have been intended 
for Kobi, which is said to be the original Tartar name. " Tout cet espace," 
says Du Halde, " n est qu un terrain sec et sablonneux, le plus sterile qui 
qui soit dans toute la Tartarie. C est ce que les Chinois appellent ordin- 
airement Charno (Shamo), quelquefois Kan-hai, comme qui diroit mer de 
sable. Les Tartares le nomment Cobi." Tom. iv. p. 26. 

i oo Travels of Marco Polo 

and eat the cattle of both kinds; but camels are commonly 
here employed in preference to asses, because they carry heavy 
burthens and are fed with a small quantity of provender. The 
stock of provisions should be laid in for a month, that time 
being required for crossing the desert in the narrowest part. 
To travel it in the direction of its length would prove a vain 
attempt, as little less than a year must be consumed, and to 
convey stores for such a period would be found impracticable. 1 
During these thirty days the journey is invariably over either 
sandy plains or barren mountains ; but at the end of each day s 
march you stop at a place where water is procurable; not in 
deed in sufficient quantity for large numbers, but enough to 
supply a hundred persons, together wth their beasts of burthen. 
At three or four of these halting-places the water is salt and 
bitter, but at the others, amounting to about twenty, it is 
sweet and good. In this tract neither beasts nor birds are met 
with, because there is no kind of food for them. 2 

It is asserted as a well-known fact that this desert is the 
abode of many evil spirits, which amuse travellers to their 
destruction with most extraordinary illusions. If, during the 
day-time, any persons remain behind on the road, either when 
overtaken by sleep or detained by their natural occasions, until 
the caravan has passed a hill and is no longer in sight, they un 
expectedly hear themselves called to by their names, and in a 
tone of voice to which they are accustomed. Supposing the 
call to proceed from their companions, they are led away by it 

1 In the Jesuits map prefixed to Du Halde s " Description de la Chine," 
the desert is made to extend, with a partial interruption, from the meri 
dian of Peking, westward to the thirty-fifth degree of longitude reckoned 
from that city. The impracticability, therefore, of travelling over it in 
that direction, as observed by our author, is evident. 

2 The general conformity of this description, as it regards the dreary 
aspect of the country and the nature of the halting places, with the ac 
count given by that excellent traveller John Bell of Antermony, who 
crossed another part of the same desert, in his route from Selinginsky 
to Peking, will be found very striking; and it is remarkable that the 
number of days employed was in the one case thirty, and in the other 
twenty-eight. The most material difference between them is, that Bell, 
during several days of his journey, met with sheep, and afterwards herds 
of antelopes, as well as a flock of plovers, whereas our author saw neither 
beasts nor birds in his passage. But it is not improbable that the desert 
may be more barren and inhospitable towards its western extremity; 
and it is at the same time reasonable to suppose that the line of road 
taken by the Chinese government for their communication with the 
Russian dominions, should be through that part where there was the 
best chance of finding the means of subsistence. It is also possible that 
some changes may have taken place in the course of four hundred and 
fifty years, and that a breed of sheep may have been carried to those 
spots which exhibited symptoms of vegetation. 

The Spirits of the Desert 101 

from the direct road, and not knowing in what -direction to 
advance, are left to perish. In the night-time they are per 
suaded they hear the march of a large cavalcade on one side or 
the other of the road, and concluding the noise to be that of the 
footsteps of their party, they direct theirs to the quarter from 
whence it seems to proceed; but upon the breaking of day, 
find they have been misled and drawn into a situation of 
danger. Sometimes likewise during the day these spirits 
assume the appearance of their travelling companions, who 
address them by name and endeavour to conduct them out of 
the proper road. It is said also that some persons, in their 
course across the desert, have seen what appeared to them to 
be a body of armed men advancing towards them, and appre 
hensive of being attacked and plundered have taken to flight. 
Losing by this means the right path, and ignorant of the 
direction they should take to regain it, they have perished 
miserably of hunger. Marvellous indeed and almost passing 
belief are the stories related of these spirits of the desert, which 
are said at times to fill the air with the sounds of all kinds of 
musical instruments, and also of drums and the clash of arms ; 
obliging the travellers to close their line of march and to pro 
ceed in more compact order. 1 They find it necessary also to 
take the precaution before they repose for the night, to fix an 
advanced signal, pointing out the course they are afterwards 
to hold, as well as to attach a bell to each of the beasts of 
burthen for the purpose of their being more easily kept from 
straggling. Such are the excessive troubles and dangers that 
must unavoidably be encountered in the passage of this desert. 



WHEN the journey of thirty days across the desert has been 
completed, you arrive at a city called Sachion, 2 which belongs 

1 We find in the works of the Chinese geographers that these idle 
stories are the subject of general belief in the part of Tartary here 

2 Having crossed a narrow part of the great desert, in a direction from 
the towns of the kingdom of Kashgar towards the nearest point of China, 

IO2 Travels of Marco Polo 

to the grand khan. The province is named Tanguth. 1 The 
people are worshippers of idols. 2 There are Turkomans among 
them, with a few Nestorian Christians and Mahometans. 

our author s course naturally leads him to a place named Cha-tcheou, 
according to the French, or Sha-cheu according to our orthography. 
" A I est du lac de Lop," says De Guignes, " on trouve une ville que M. 
Paul appelle Sachion, la Cha-tcheou ou ville de sable des Chinois." (P. 
12.) The corruption of this name from Sha-cheu to Sachion will appear 
to have arisen chiefly from the difficulty of distinguishing the u from n 
in manuscripts; and it will be found that a great proportion of the 
Chinese names for towns, in the subsequent parts of the work, are affected 
by the same error. The place is situated about four degrees to the west 
ward of So-cheu (an important garrison at the western extremity of the 
province of Shen-si), and commands the entrance of a famous pass or 
gorge of the mountains, named Yang-kuan. In the history of Jengiz- 
khan by Petis de la Croix it is observed, that his occupation of this strong 
post was of the greatest advantage to his subsequent operations against 
the southern provinces of China. (P. 481.) It may appear an objection 
to this identifying of Sachion with Sha-cheu, which lies in the direct way 
to, and not very distant from the Chinese province of Shen-si, that in 
the next chapter he proceeds to speak of a place not intermediate, but 
on the contrary still further from the borders, and in a different direction. 
But it must be recollected that our author s work is not a simple itinerary, 
and that he professes to describe parts not in the Une of his original 
journey, but which he might have visited subsequently whilst in the 
service of the emperor. Here, too, we may remark that he does not 
give any estimation of distance, as if the route were continuous, but 
breaks off in order to speak of other places, " at the head of the desert." 

1 It is not unusual to consider the names of Tangut and Tibet, both of 
which have been adopted by the Persians from the Moghuls, as synony 
mous; but the former applies to a larger portion of Tartary, bordering 
upon the western provinces of China, and including Tibet in its southern 
division, whilst its northern contains the districts of which our author 
now proceeds to speak. According to Du Halde s definition, however, 
it does not extend quite so far northward as the situation assigned to 
Cha-tcheou in the Jesuits map. 

a The inhabitants of the countries on the western side of the desert of 
Lop or Kobi were described by our author as being chiefly Mahometans; 
but upon crossing that tract and entering the. province of Tangut, or 
Sifan, as it is termed by the Chinese, he properly speaks of the people 
as idolaters. By idolatry is here meant the religion generally known as 
that of the grand lama, or spiritual sovereign, whom his followers believe 
to be immortal, by means of successive regeneration of the same indivi 
dual in different bodies, but do not worship, as has been supposed. Their 
adoration is paid to a number of images of deities, but principally to one, 
which is often of a colossal size, and is named by them Shakia-muni. 
This is the Buddha of the Hindu mythology, whose doctrines are more 
extensively disseminated throughout the east than even those of Ma 
homet. In Ava and Pegu the same idol is worshipped by the name of 
Gautama (equally with Shakia an epithet or attribute of Buddha), in 
Siam by that of Samana-kodom, in Cochin-China and Tonkin by that of 
But and Thika-mauni, in Japan by that of Shaka and Amida Buth, and 
in China, where the same system prevails amongst the bulk of the popu 
lation, by that of Fo or Fuh. Many of the other objects of worship 
appear to belong to the Brahmanic mythology, and some are of a local 
character. It is evident at the same time that with respect to forms and 
ceremonies, of which there will be occasion to say more hereafter, many 
of them have been adopted from the Nestorian Christians. 

The People of Tangut 103 

Those who are idolaters have a language distinct from the 
others. 1 This city lies towards the east-north-east. They are 
not a commercial, but an agricultural people, having much 
wheat. There are in this country a number of monasteries and 
abbeys, which are filled with idols of various descriptions. 2 
To these, which they regard with the profoundest reverence, 
they also offer sacrifices; and upon the birth of a son, they 
recommend him to the protection of some one of their idols. 
In honour of this deity the father rears a sheep in his house 
until the expiration of a year, when, upon the day of the idol s 
peculiar festival, they conduct their son, together with the 
sheep, into its presence, and there sacrifice the animal. The 
flesh they seethe, and then they carry it and lay it before the 
idol, and stand there until they have finished a long prayer, the 
subject of which is to entreat the idol to preserve the health 
of their child ; 3 and they believe that during this interval 
it has sucked in all the savoury juices of the meat. The 
remaining substance they then carry home, and, assembling- 
all their relations and friends, eat it with much devout 
festivity. They collect the bones, and preserve them in 
handsome urns. The priests of the idol have for their portion 

1 This we term the language of Tibet, which is monosyllabic in its 
principle, like the Chinese, but in every other respect differs from it. 
The written character bears more commonly the appellation of Tangut 
or Tangutian, and in its alphabetic arrangement acknowledges a nagri 
or Sanskrit origin. 

2 Of the numerous and capacious buildings erected in a country where 
every fourth male of a family is devoted to the monastic life, we find fre 
quent mention in the writings of travellers, and particularly in the ac 
counts of Bogle s mission in 1774, and Turner s in 1783, to the court of 
the southern grand lama. The plates annexed to the latter will furnish 
the curious reader with a perfect idea of the exterior appearance of these 
monasteries, some of which contain from two to three thousand gylongs 
or monks. An engraving of the same subject appears also amongst the 
plates connected with Lord Macartney s Embassy to China: various 
circumstances relative to the interior of the establishments will be found 
in Turner s pleasing narrative, and a general description, with a ground 
plan, in the Alphabetum Tibetanum of Georgi, p. 407. In the Mem. 
cone, les Chinois, torn, xiv., we find an elaborate account of the great 
miao or abbey of Putala, at Lhassa, which has " 367 pieds quatre pouces 
de hauteur." 

3 The ceremony here described, in which the sacrifice of the sheep 
appears to be intended as a ransom for the child, who, at his birth, may 
have been devoted rather than recommended to the guardian deity, is 
consistent with what is remarked by the younger De Guignes, of a prac 
tice amongst the neighbours of this people. " Comme les Chinois," says 
this traveller, implorent les genies dans toutes les circonstances de 
la vie, il n est pas surprenant qu ils les invoquent pour en obtenir la 
conservation de leurs enfans. Lorsqu ils craignent de les perdre, ils les 
consacrent & quelque dieu." (Voyages a Peking, etc., torn. ii. p. 359.) 
A similar custom is said to exist in Bengal. 

104 Travels of Marco Polo 

the head, the feet, the intestines, and the skin, together 
with some parts of the flesh. In respect to the dead, 
likewise, these idolaters have particular ceremonies. Upori 
the decease of a person of rank, whose body it is intended to 
burn, 1 the relations call together the astrologers, and make 
them acquainted with the year, the day, and the hour in which 
he was born; whereupon these proceed to examine the horo 
scope, and having ascertained the constellation or sign, and the 
planet therein presiding, declare the day on which the funeral 
ceremony shall take place. If it should happen that the same 
planet be not then in the ascendant, they order the body to 
be kept a week or more, and sometimes even for the space of 
six months, before they allow the ceremony to be performed. 
In the hope of a propitious aspect, and dreading the effects of 
a contrary influence, the relations do not presume to burn the 
corpse until the astrologers have fixed the proper time. 2 It 
being necessary on this account that, in many cases, the 
body should remain long in the house, in order to guard 
against the consequences of putrefaction, they prepare 
a coffin made of boards a palm in thickness, well fitted 
together and painted, in which they deposit the corpse, and 
along with it a quantity of sweet-scented gums, camphor, and 
other drugs; the joints or seams they smear with a mixture of 
pitch and lime, and the whole is then covered with silk. Dur 
ing this period the table is spread every day with bread, wine, 
and other provisions, which remain so long as is necessary for a 
convenient meal, as well as for the spirit of the deceased, which 
they suppose to be present on the occasion, to satisfy itself 
with the fumes of the victuals. Sometimes the astrologers 
signify to the relations that the body must not be conveyed 
from the house through the principal door, in consequence of 
their having discovered from the aspect of the heavens, or 
otherwise, that such a course would be unlucky, and it must 
therefore be taken out from a different side of the house. 3 In 

1 It is only on the bodies of personages of the highest rank that the 
honours of the funeral pile are bestowed; those of the inferior orders 
being exposed in unfrequented places, and sometimes on the tops of 
mountains, to be devoured by birds and other wild animals. 

* The implicit deference paid to the skill of astrologers in determining 
the days and hours proper for the performance of all acts, public and 
domestic, solemn or trivial, is general throughout the East. 

3 This custom is found to prevail also amongst the Chinese with whom 
the inhabitants of a country so near to the borders of the empire, as that 
which our author is now describing, must have much in common. " C est 
parmi eux," adds Du Halde, " un usage de faire de nouvelles ouvertures 
a Jours maisons, quand on doit transporter le corps de leurs parens 

Funeral Customs in Tangut 105 

some instances, indeed, they oblige them to break through the 
wall that happens to stand opposite to the propitious and 
beneficent planet, and to convey the corpse through that aper 
ture; persuading them that if they should refuse to do so, the 
spirit of the defunct would be incensed against the family and 
cause them some injury. Accordingly, when any misfortune 
befalls a house, or any person belonging to it meets with an 
accident or loss, or with an untimely death, the astrologers do 
not fail to attribute the event to a funeral not having taken 
place during the ascendency of the planet under which the 
deceased relative was born, but, on the contrary, when it was 
exposed to a malign influence, or to its not having been con 
ducted through the proper door. As the ceremony of burning 
the body must be performed without the city, they erect from 
space to space in the road by which the procession is to pass, 
small wooden buildings, with a portico which they cover with 
silk; and under these, as it arrives at each, the body is set 
down. They place before it meats and liquors, and this is 
repeated until they reach the appointed spot, believing, as 
they do, that the spirit is thereby refreshed and acquires energy 
to attend the funeral pile. Another ceremony also is practised 
on these occasions. They provide a number of pieces of paper, 
made of the bark of a certain tree, upon which are painted the 
figures of men, women, horses, camels, pieces of money, and 
dresses, and these they burn along with the corpse, under the 
persuasion that in the next world the deceased will enjoy the 
services and use of the domestics, cattle, and all the articles 
depicted on the paper. 1 During the whole of these proceed 
ings, all the musical instruments belonging to the place are 
sounded with an incessant din. 2 Having now spoken of this 
city, others lying towards the north-west, near the head of the 
desert, shall next be mentioned. 

decedez au lieu de leur sepulture, et de les refermer aussitot, afin de 
s epargner la douleur que leur causeroit le frequent souvenir du defunt, 
qui se renouvelleroit toutes les fois qu ils passeroient par la meme porte 
ou est passe le cerciieil." (P. 128.) Nor is the prejudice here described con 
fined to the eastern parts of the world; for in a town or village of North 
Holland (as I was informed on the spot) a corpse is never carried out 
through the front or principal door, but from the rear of the house. 

1 Could we suppose the missionaries to have derived their knowledge 
of the customs of these people from the writings of our author, the 
parallel could not be more complete than it will be found in various 
passages of Du Halde. 

2 All accounts of the ceremonies of these people notice the loud 
clangour of their music. 

106 Travels of Marco Polo 



KAMUL is a district situated within the great province of 
Tanguth, subject to the grand khan, and contains many towns 
and castles, of which the principal city is also named Kamul. 1 
This district lies in the intermediate space between two deserts ; 
that is to say, the great desert already described, and another 
of smaller extent, being only about three days journey across. 2 
The inhabitants are worshippers of idols, and have their 
peculiar language. 3 They subsist on the fruits of the earth, 
which they possess in abundance, and are enabled to supply 
the wants of travellers. 4 The men are addicted to pleasure, 
and attend to little else than playing upon instruments, singing, 

1 Kamul, which the Tartars are said to pronounce Khamil, or Hamil 
with a strong aspiration, is the Kami of the Jesuits map, softened in the 
Chinese pronunciation, as the title of khan is changed to han. In the 
narrative of B. Goez it is stated, that after leaving a place named Cialis 
(the Juldus of Strahlenberg s map), and passing another named Pucian, 
also belonging to the, kingdom of Cascar, they reached Turphan and 
remained there a month. " Apres ils parvindrent a Aramuth, et puis a 
Camul, place garnie de bonnes deffences. Ilz reposerent icy avec leurs 
chevaux un autre mois. . . . Estans partis de Camul ilz arriverent dans 
neuf jours a ces murs septentrionaux du rpyaume de la Chine, en un lieu 
nomme Chiaicuon (Kia-yu-kuan). . . . Aians done enfin este reus dans 
1 enclos de ces murailles, ilz arriverent en un jour en la ville de Socieu 
(So-cheu)." (Histoire de PExpedition Chrestienne, par Trigault, pp. 
482 485.) The distance, however, from Kami to So-cheu, the most 
western town of China, being by the maps about 280 miles, would render 
it a journey, for a caravan, of more than ten days. 

2 This account of the position of Kamul will be found to correspond 
exactly to that of Hami, which together with Turfan occupies a tract of 
cultivable land that seems nearly to divide the great desert of Kobi into 
two parts. See the Jesuits maps accompanying Du Halde s " Descrip 
tion de la Chine." 

3 At the period of Shah Rokh s embassy, which was about a century 
and a half later than our author s visit to this place, it was under a 
Mahometan government. 

4 " Le pays," says Gerbfllon, " est fort chaud en etc; il y croit quantite 
de bons fruits." (P. 54.) The Abbe Grosier observes that " the country 
of Hami, though surrounded by deserts, is accounted one of the most 
delightful in the world. The soil produces abundance of grain, fruits, 
leguminous plants, and pasture of every kind. The rice which grows 
here is particularly esteemed in China. . . . There is no fruit more deli 
cate or more in request than the melons of Hami, which are carried to 
Peking for the emperor s table . . . but the most useful and most 
esteemed production of the country is its dried raisins." General 
Description of China, vol. i. p. 333. 

The District of Kamul 107 

dancing, reading, writing, according to the practice of the 
country, and the pursuit, in short, of every kind of amusement. 1 
When strangers arrive, and desire to have lodging and accom 
modation at their houses, it affords them the highest gratifi 
cation. They give positive orders to their wives, daughters, 
sisters, and other female relations, to indulge their guests in 
every wish, whilst they themselves leave their homes, and retire 
into the city, and the stranger lives in the house with the 
females as if they were his own wives, and they send whatever 
necessaries may be wanted; but for which, it is to be under 
stood, they expect payment: nor do they return to their houses 
so long as the strangers remain in them. This abandonment 
of the females of their family to accidental guests, who assume 
the same privileges and meet with the same indulgences as if 
they were their own wives, is regarded by these people as doing 
them honour and adding to their reputation; considering the 
hospitable reception of strangers, who (after the perils and 
fatigues of a long journey) stand in need of relaxation, as an 
action agreeable to their deities, calculated to draw down the 
blessing of increase upon their families, to augment their sub 
stance, and to procure them safety from all dangers, as well as 
a successful issue to all their undertakings. The women are in 
truth very handsome, very sensual, and fully disposed to con 
form in this respect to the injunction of their husbands. It 
happened at the time when Mangu Khan held his court in this 
province, that the above scandalous custom coming to his 
knowledge, he issued an edict strictly commanding the people 
of Kamul to relinquish a practice so disgraceful to them, and 
forbidding individuals to furnish lodging to strangers, who 
should be obliged to accommodate themselves at a house of 
public resort or caravanserai. In grief and sadness the in 
habitants obeyed for about three years the command of their 
master; but finding at length that the earth ceased to yield 
the accustomed fruits, and that many unfortunate events 
occurred in their families, they resolved to despatch a deputa- 

1 " Leurs diver tissemens," says P. Amiot, speaking of the inhabitants 
of this part of the country, " consistent en chants et en danses. Us se 
mettent par bandes de cinq ou six hommes et femmes pele-mele, se 
prennent par la main, et tournent ensemble, en faisant de terns en terns 
quelques sauts." (Mem. concern, les Chinois, torn. xiv. p. 152.) We 
should not have expected to find reading and writing classed amongst 
light and effeminate occupations; but allowance must be made for the 
prejudices of a person educated in a Tartar court. A detailed account of 
the manner and instruments of writing amongst these people will be 
found in the Alphabetum Tibetanum, pp. 561 567. 

io8 Travels of Marco Polo 

tion to the grand khan, in their names, to beseech him that he 
should be pleased to suffer them to resume the observance of a 
custom that had been solemnly handed down to them by their 
fathers, from their ancestors in the remotest times; and 
especially as since they had failed in the exercise of these 
offices of hospitality and gratification to strangers, the interest 
of their families had gone progressively to ruin. The grand 
khan, having listened to this application, replied: " Since you 
appear so anxious to persist in your own shame and ignominy, 
let it be granted as you desire. Go, live according to your 
base customs and manners, and let your wives continue to 
receive the beggarly wages of their prostitution." With this 
answer the deputies returned home, to the great delight of all 
the people, who, to the present day, observe their ancient 
practice. 1 



NEXT to the district of Kamul follows that of Chinchitalas, 
which in its northern part borders on the desert, and is in 
length sixteen days journey. 2 It is subject to the grand khan, 

1 In Elphinstone s account of Caubul he gives a description of manners 
prevailing in the tribes that inhabit the eastern part of the Paropamisan 
mountains, so nearly similar to what pur author mentions, that I am 
gratified by the occasion of verifying his statement by authority so re 
spectable. " The women," he says, " are often handsome. ... It is 
universally agreed that they are by no means remarkable for chastity; 
but I have heard different accounts of their libertinism. In the north 
east, which is the most civilized part of the country, the women would 
prostitute themselves for money, while their husbands were out of the 
way. ... In other parts of the country there prevails a custom called 
Kooroo Bistaun, by which the husband lends his wife to the embraces 
of his guests. This," he adds in a note, " is Moghul: one of the laws of 
the Yasa forbids adultery. The inhabitants of Caiader applied for, and 
received an exemption, on account of their old usage of lending their 
wives to their guests." -P. 483. 

a Mention is made in L Hist. generate des Huns of a place named Chen- 
chen, which has been supposed to be the Chinchitalas of our author. 
Tala, it should be observed, signifies in the Moghul-Tartar language, " a 
plain," and talai or dalai, " a sea or extensive lake: " tolas may therefore 
be considered as an appellative, distinct from the proper name. " Ce 
pays," says De Guignes, " qui dans les historiens Chinois porte les deux 
noms de Leou-lan et de Chen-chen, est situe au midi de Kami. II formoit 
anciennement un petit royaune dont la capitale 6toit Kan-ni-tching 
voisine du lac de Lop. Tout ce pays est sterile, plein de sables, et Ton 

The City of Chinchitalas 109 

and contains cities and several strong places. Its inhabitants 
consist of three religious sects. A few of them confess Christ, 
according to the Nestorian doctrine; others are followers of 
Mahomet; and a third class worship idols. There is in this 
district a mountain where the mines produce steel, and also 
zinc or antimony. 1 A substance is likewise found of the nature 
of the salamander, for when woven into cloth, and thrown into 
the fire, it remains incombustible. 2 The following mode of 
preparing it I learned from one of my travelling companions, 
named Curficar, a very intelligent Turkoman, who had the 
direction of the mining operations of the province for three 
years. The fossil substance procured from the mountain con 
sists of fibres not unlike those of wool. This, after being ex 
posed to the sun to dry, is pounded in a brass mortar, and is 
then washed until all the earthy particles are separated. The 
fibres thus cleansed and detached from each other, they then 
spin into thread and weave into cloth. In order to render the 
texture white, they put it into the fire, and suffer it to remain 
there about an hour, when they draw it out uninjured by the 
flame, and become white as snow. By the same process they 
afterwards cleanse it, when it happens to contract spots, no 
other abstergent lotion than an igneous one being ever applied 
to it. 3 Of the salamander under the form of a serpent, sup- 

y rencontre peu de bonnes terres. On y comptoit environ quinze 
families. Ces peuples cherchent les paturages ou ils nourissent des anes, 
des chevaux et des chameaux. Ils tirent des pays voisins leurs denrees : 
ils ont les memes mceurs que les peuples du Tibet qui sont leurs voisins 
au sud-est. . . . Je pense que c est dans ce canton qu il faut placer la 
province que M. Paul appelle Chin-chin- talas, voisine du grand desert, 
et ou il y avoit des Nestoriens, des Mahometans, et des idolatres." (Tom. 
i. pt. ii. p. xi.) It may, however, be doubted whether Chinchitalas is 
not the Cialis or Chialis of B. Goez, which he describes as a place de 
pendent upon the king of Kashgar, and not far distant from Turfan and 

1 Respecting this mineral, which in the Latin is andanicum or audani- 
cum, and in the Italian of the epitomes, andranico and andronico, see 
notes on pp. 56 and 71. 

2 There can be no doubt that what the texts here call salamander was 
really the asbestos. [The passage in the early Latin text is, " Et in ista 
montana est una alia vena unde fit salamandra. Salamandra autem non 
est bestia sicut dicitur quae vivat in igne, sed dicam vobis quomodo fit 

8 The asbestos is described as " a fossile stone that may be split into 
threads or filaments, from one to ten inches in length, very fine, brittle, 
yet somewhat tractable, silky, and of a greyish colour. It is indis 
soluble in water, and endued with the wonderful property of remaining 
hnconsumed in the fire." L asbeste a eu autrefois," says M. Brong- 
|niart, des usages assez remarquables. Les anciens, qui bruloient les 
corps, 1 ont employe comme drap incombustible pour conserver les cendres 
des corps sans melange. Lorsque les filamens de cette pierre sont assez 

1 10 Travels of Marco Polo 

posed to exist in fire, I could never discover any traces in the 
eastern regions. It is said that they preserve at Rome a 
napkin woven from this material, in which was wrapped the 
sudarium of our Lord, sent as a gift from one of the Tartar 
princes to the Roman Pontiff. 



UPON leaving the district last mentioned, and proceeding for 
ten days in the direction of east-north-east, through a country 
where there are few habitations, and little of any kind worthy 
of remark, you arrive at a district named Succuir, in which 
are many towns and castles, the principal one being likewise 
named Succuir. 1 The inhabitants are in general idolaters, 
with some Christians. 2 They are subject to the dominion of 

longs, assez doux, et assez flexibles, on parvient a les filer, siir-tout si on 
les mele avec du lin. On peut en tisser une toile qui a une soliditS et une 
flexibility convenable, lors meme qu elle a ete privee, par le moyen du 
feu, du fil vegetal qu elle contenoit. Lprsque cette toile est salie, le feu 
lui rend son premier eclat." Trait6 elementaire de Mineralogie, torn. i. 
P. 482. 

1 This appears, from all the circumstances mentioned, to be intended 
for So-cheu, a fortified town in the extreme western part of the province of 
Shen-si, or frontier of China in that quarter. Formerly, however, it did not 
belong to the empire, but to an independent Tartar nation. " Les places 
les plus occidentals de la province de Chensi," says De Guignes, " ayant 
fait partie de la Tartarie, nous croyons devoir les npmmer ici d autant 
plus que ce que nous en diront pourra servir 6claircir M. Paul. . . . 
Sous le regne des Spui, on appella tout ce pays So-tcheou. ... II passa 
ensuite sous la domination des peuples du Toufan, et quelque terns aprs, 
les Chinois le reprirent; il fait aujourd hui partie du Chensi." (Tom. i. 
pt. ii. p. ix.) The first notice we have of this place, after the time of 
our author, is by Shah Rokb s ambassadors, in 1420. Sekgiou (which 
De Guignes, perhaps from a different translation, writes Sokjou) est une 
ville grande et forte, en forme de quarre parfait. . . , cette yille est 
done la premiere de Khatai, eloign6e de quatre-vingt-dix-neuf journeys 
de la ville de Kan-Balik, qui est le lieu de la residence de rempereur, 
par un pais tres-peup!6, car chaque journ6e on loge dans un gros bourg." 

-Relations de Thevenot, torn. ii. 

* During the long interval of three centuries that had elapsed between 
our author s time and that of Benedict Goez, an entire change appears 
to have taken place with respect to the Christian population, which he 
no longer found to exist ; an effect that was produced by the ascendancy 
of the Mahometans in that quarter. 

The City of Kampion i 1 1 

the grand khan. The extensive province, which contains these 
and the two districts which shall be next mentioned, is called 
Tanguth, and throughout all the mountainous parts of it the 
most excellent kind of rhubarb is produced, in large quantities, 
and the merchants who procure loadings of it on the spot con 
vey it to all parts of the world. 1 It is a fact that when they take 
that road, they cannot venture amongst the mountains with 
any beasts of burthen excepting those accustomed to the 
country, on account of a poisonous. plant growing there, which, 
if eaten by them, has the effect of causing the hoofs of the 
animal to drop off; but those of the country, being aware of 
its dangerous quality, take care to avoid it. The people of 
Succuir depend for subsistence upon the fruits of the earth and 
the flesh of their cattle, and do not engage in trade. The 
district is perfectly healthy, and the complexion of the natives 
is brown. 



KAMPION, the chief city of the province of Tanguth, 2 is large 
and magnificent, and has jurisdiction over all the province. 3 

1 The abundant growth of rhubarb in the mountainous region that 
fgrms the western boundary of China, is noticed by all the writers who 
have treated of these provinces. In the writings of Professor Pallas will 
be found a particular account of the trade in this article, which the Rus 
sians at Kiakta procure from the country of which we are speaking, 
through the agency of merchants from Bucharia residing on the spot. 

2 If it be admitted that Succuir is intended for So-cheu, it will follow 
that Kam-pion, or as it appears in other versions, Kan-pion, Kam-pition, 
and Kam-picion, is the city of Kan-cheu, the Kam-giou of the Persian 
ambassadors, the Kam-chick of Johnson, and Kan-ceu of Goez. John 
son mentions its being at the distance of five stages from the former. 

3 The relative importance of Kan-cheu, with respect to So-cheu and 
other towns in that part of Shen-si, has continued the same at all periods. 
Shah Rokh s ambassadors observe, that the governor who resided there 
was superior to all the other governors of bordering places; and Goez 
says, " En 1 une de ces villes de la province de Scensi nominee Kanceu, 
demeure le viceroy avec les autres principaux magistratz." P. 486. 

1 1 2 Travels of Marco Polo 

The bulk of the people worship idols, but there are some who 
follow the religion of Mahomet,, and some Christians. The 
latter have three large and handsome churches in the city. 1 
The idolaters have many religious houses, or monasteries and 
abbeys, built after the manner of the country, and in these a 
multitude of idols, some of which are of wood, some of stone, 
and some of clay, are covered with gilding. They are carved 
in a masterly style. Among these are some of very large size, 
and others are small. 2 The former are full ten paces in length, 
and lie in a recumbent posture; the small figures stand behind 
them, and have the appearance of disciples in the act of 
reverential salutation. 3 Both great and small are held in 
extreme veneration. Those persons amongst the idolaters who 
are devoted to the services of religion lead more correct lives, 
according to their ideas of morality, than the other classes, 
abstaining from the indulgence of carnal and sensual appetites. 4 

L The disappearance in the course of three centuries, or even in a much 
shorter period, of these churches, which were probably built of wood, is 
no argument against their having existed in our author s time. It was 
not until the end of the sixteenth century that the Jesuits obtained a 
footing in China, and began to investigate the subject of an earlier dis 
semination of Christianity in that part of the world. During this inter 
val an entire revolution had taken place in the Chinese government, and 
the Yuen or Moghul-Tartar family, distinguished for its tolerance or in 
difference in matters of religion, had been succeeded by the native dynasty 
of the Ming, whose princes were influenced by a different policy, and 
proscribed the lamas, as well as the Christian priests, to whom their pre 
decessors were thought to have been too much attached. About this 
period also the Mahometans, becoming numerous at Kashgar and other 
places on the borders of the desert, were active and apparently success 
ful in their endeavours to exterminate their rivals. A strong picture is 
drawn by Goez, of the intolerant insolence of these bigots, in the towns 
through which his route lay, from Hindustan, by the way of Lahore and 
Cabul, to China. 

8 In all countries where the religion of Buddha prevails, it appears to 
be an object of religious zeal to erect images representing him of an enor 
mous magnitude, and not unfreqnently to cover them with gilding. 
This we find to be the practice in Japan, Siam, and Ava, as well as in 
Tartary and China. Shaka-muni is one of the Hindu names of Buddha. 
P. Gerbillon, who accompanied the emperor of China into Tartary, 
speaks also of such gigantic images, one of which being measured with 
a quadrant, was found to be fifty-seven Chinese feet in height. 

3 Although the images of Buddha are usually represented sitting, with 
the legs crossed, some of these monstrous statues are in a recumbent 
posture, and surrounded with figures in an attitude of prayer or saluta 
tion. The ambassadors who visited this city of Kan-cheu in 1420, men 
tion idols of the same extraordinary kind, and in a striking manner con 
firm the authenticity of our author s account. In every complete 
temple," says Cordiner in his Description of Ceylon, " one colossal image 
of Buddha is represented in a sleeping posture, and a great many others 
Df the same, sitting and standing, not larger than the life." Vol. i. p. 150. 
4 " Their sole occupation," says Turner, speaking of the religious 
orders of Tibet. " lies in performing the duties of their faith. They are 

Manners of Tangut 1 1 3 

The unlicensed intercourse of the sexes is not in general con 
sidered by these people as a serious offence; and their maxim 
is, that if the advances are made by the female, the connexion 
does not constitute an offence, but it is held to be such when 
the proposal comes from the man. They employ an almanac, 
in many respects like our own, according to the rules of which, 
during five, four, or three days in the month, they do not shed 
blood, nor eat flesh or fowl; as is our usage in regard to Friday, 
the Sabbath, and the vigils of the saints. 1 The laity take to 
themselves as many as thirty wives, some more, some fewer, 
according to their ability to maintain them; for they do not 
receive any dowry with them, but, on the contrary, settle 
dowers upon their wives, in cattle, slaves, and money. 2 The 
wife who is first married always maintains the superior rank 
in the family; but if the husband observes that any one 
amongst them does not conduct herself well to the rest, or if 

exempt from labour; enjoined sobriety and temperance, and interdicted 
all intercourse with the other sex." (P. 170 ) According to Morrison s 
Chinese Dictionary, the priests of the sect of Fuh or Fo (who are deno 
minated Hp-shang, Sang, and Shamun,) receive the five precepts: 
Not to kill living creatures ; not to steal, or rob ; not to practise lewdness ; 
not to say what is untrue; not to drink wine." P. 157. 

1 " The same superstition," says Turner, that influences their view 
of the affairs of the world, pervades equally their general calculations. 
On this principle it is, that they frame their common calendar of time. 
I have one now in my possession; and as far as I can understand it from 
what has been explained to me, a recapitulation of lucky and unlucky 
times constitutes the chief merit of the work." P. 320. 

2 Nothing has hitherto occurred in the course of the work, in which 
the direct assertion of our author is so much at variance with modern 
information, as this of the prevalence of the custom of polygamy amongst 
the people of Tangut. Bogle expressly tells us, that in the sense in 
which we commonly receive the word, polygamy is not in use in Tibet ; 
but that it exists in a manner still more repugnant to European ideas, in 
the plurality of husbands; and that it is usual for the brothers in the 
family to have a wife in common. (Phil. Trans, vol. Ixvii. p. 477, and 
Craufurd s Sketches, vol. ii. p. 177.) This is confirmed by Turner, who 
says: " The number of husbands is not, as far as I could learn, defined 
or restricted within any limits; it sometimes happens that in a small 
family there is but one female; and the number may seldom perhaps 
exceed that, which a native of rank, during my residence at Teshoo 
Loomboo, pointed out to me in a family resident in the neighbourhood, 
in which five brothers were then living together very happily, with one 
female, under the same connubial compact. Nor is this sort of league 
confined to the lower ranks of people alone." (P. 349.) To these 
authorities we can only oppose the qualified observation of M. Pallas, 
who tells us that polygamy, though forbidden by their religion, is not 
uncommon amongst the great. (Neue Nordische Beytrage, b. i. p. 
204.) The distance, however, between Lhasa and Khan-cheu is so con 
siderable (about ten degrees of latitude and eight of longitude) that 
although the inhabitants of each, as well as of the greater part of Tartary, 
follow the same religious worship, there may yet exist essential differences 
in their domestic manners. 

i 14 Travels of Marco Polo 

she becomes otherwise disagreeable to him, he can send her 
away. They take to their beds those who are nearly related 
to them by blood, and even espouse their mothers-in-law. 
Many other mortal sins are regarded by them with indifference, 
and they live in this respect like the beasts of the field. In this 
city Marco Polo remained, along with his father and uncle, 
about the space of one year, which the state of their concerns 
rendered necessary. 1 



LEAVING this city of Kampion, and travelling for twelve days 
in a northerly direction, you come to a city named Ezina, 2 at 
the commencement of the sandy desert, and within the pro 
vince of Tanguth. The inhabitants are idolaters. They have 
camels, and much cattle of various sorts. Here you find 
lanner-falcons and many excellent sakers. The fruits of the 
soil and the flesh of the cattle supply the wants!)? the people, 

1 It is remarkable that Goez, who, although a missionary, travelled in 
the character of an Armenian merchant, was in like manner detained 
upwards of a year at the neighbouring town of So-cheu. The regula 
tions of police appear to have required then, as they do at this day, that 
permission should be received from Peking before strangers are suffered 
to advance into the country. 

2 Having reached the borders of northern China, and spoken of two 
places that are within the line of what is termed the Great Wall, (but 
which will hereafter be shown to have consisted on this side of a mound 
of earth only, and not to have been the stupendous work of masonry it 
is described on the northern frontier,) our author ceases to pursue a 
direct route, and proceeds to the account of places lying to the north 
and south, some of them in the vicinity, and others in distant parts of 
Tartary, according to the information he had acquired of them on various 
occasions. Nor does he in the sequel furnish any distinct idea of the line 
he took upon entering China, hi company with his father and uncle, on 
their journey to the emperor s court; although from what occurs in 
chap. lii. there is reason to believe that he went from Kan-cheu to Si- 
ning (by Professor Pallas called Selin), and there fell into the great road 
from Tibet to Peking. His description now takes a northerly course to 
a place named Ezina, which stood on a small river which flows by Kan- 
cheu towards the great desert of Kobi, which he had already crossed in 
a more western and narrower part. This town is known to us from the 
operations of Jengiz-khan, who took possession of it when he invaded 
Tangut in 1224 according to Petis de la Croix, or 1226 according to De 
Guignes, and made it for some time the head- quarters of his army. 

The City of Karakoran 1 1 5 

and they do not con^eni_theinsdv_es_ jwith trade. Travellers 
passing^throvfgli triis city lay in a store of provisions for forty 
days, because, upon their leaving it to proceed northwards, 
that space of time is employed in traversing a desert, where 
there is not any appearance of dwelling, nor are there any in 
habitants excepting a few during the summer, among the 
mountains and in some of the valleys. In these situations, 
frequented by wild asses and other animals equally wild, 1 they 
find water and woods of pine-trees. Having passed this desert, 
you arrive at a city on the northern side of it, named Kara 
koran. All the districts and cities previously mentioned, that 
is to say, Sakion, Kamul, Chinchitalas, Succuir, Kampion, and 
Ezina, belong to the great province of Tanguth. 




THE city of Karakoran 2 is about three miles in circuit, and is 
the first place in which the Tartars established their residence 
in remote times. It is surrounded with a strong rampart of 
earth, there not being any good supply of stone in that part 
of the country. On the outside of the rampart, but near to it, 
stands a castle of great size, in which is a handsome palace 
occupied by the governor of the place. 

1 The wild ass here mentioned is probably that animal which the 
missionaries, rather unaccountably, call the wild mule, and describe as 
an inhabitant of this desert region. The wild ass or onager is the equus 
asinus of Linn., and the animal denominated the wild mule is the equus 

2 The name of this city is properly written Kara-korum, but often 
Kara-kum (signifying black sand). By the Chinese it is called Holin, 
which answers to Korin in Tartar pronunciation. It was built, or rather 
rebuilt, by Oktai-khan, the son and successor of Jengiz-khan, about the 
year 1235; whose nephew, Mangu-khan, made it his principal residence. 
No traces of it have been in existence for some centuries, but its position 
is noted in the tables of Ulig-beig, and also in the Jesuits and D Anville s 
maps. It was visited in the year 1254 by William de Rubruquis, a friar 
minor, who together with some other ecclesiastics was sent by Louis IX. 
of France on a general mission to the Tartar princes. The account he 
gives of it conveys no high idea of its importance as a city, nor does his 
description of the court, of the state of civilization to which these con 
querors had attained: but his whole narrative exhibits the illiberal 
prejudices of a vulgar mind. 

1 1 6 Travels of Marco Polo 



THE circumstances under which these Tartars first began to 
exercise dominion shall now be related. They dwelt in the 
northern countries of Jorza and Bargu, 1 but without fixed 
habitations, that is, without towns or fortified places; where 
there were extensive plains, good pasture, large rivers, and 
plenty of water. They had no sovereign of their own, and were 
tributary to a powerful prince, who (as I have been informed) 
was named in their language, Un-khan, 2 by some thought to 

1 What may be considered as the proper, although perhaps not the 
most ancient country of the Moghuls, as they are called by the Persians, 
or Mungals as the name is pronounced in the northern parts of Asia, in 
cluding Kalmuks or Eleuts, Burats, and Kalkas, appears to be that tract 
which lies between the upper streams of the Amur river on the east, and 
those of the Yanisei and Irtish rivers, together with the Altai range of 
mountains on the west; having on the north the Baikal lake, and on the 
south the great desert, which separates it from the country of Tangut, 
and the kingdom of China ; including within these boundaries the Sehnga 
river, near to which, in the former part of the last century, was the urga 
(station or encampment) of the Tush-du-khan or modern prince of the 
Mungals. The exact situation of the plains of Giorza, Jorza, or Jorja, 
and Bargu cannot be determined. In Strahlenberg s map there is a 
district adjoining to the south shore of Baikal, named " Campus Bargu; " 
but circumstances would lead us to suppose the places here spoken of to 
lie further to the north, and in D Anville s map the name of Bargu appears 
on the north-east side of that lake. According to Klaproth the name by 
which the Manchou people (whom he considers to be the same race with 
the Tungusi) are known to the Tartars, is Chur-chur or Jurjur, by Abu l- 
ghazi written Jurjit. These seem to be the Jorza tribes of our author; 
and the island of Zorza (to which criminals were banished) mentioned 
in book iii. chap. 2, may be that which lies off the mouth of the Sagalien- 
ula or river Amur. 

* This celebrated prince, whom our author names Umcan, or, with an 
allowable correction of the orthography of his language, Un-khan, and 
whom the historian Abu lfaraj names Ung-khan, was chief of the tribe 
of Kera-it or Kerrit, and reigned in Kara-korum, which was afterwards re 
built by Oktai and became his capital, as well as that of Mangu-khan his 
successor. He appears to have been the most powerful of the chiefs in that 
part of Tartary, and in the histories of his time is often termed the grand 
khan. By P. Gaubil, however, and those who follow the Chinese authori 
ties, he is considered as a vassal of the Niu-tche Tartar emperor, Altun- 
khan, of the dynasty of Kin, who, besides his kingdoms of Leao-ttmg 
and Korea, ruled over the northern part of China, or Kataia. They 
further assert that his appellation of Ouang-han, as they write it, is no 
other than the Chinese title of Ouang or Vang (regulus], bestowed upon 
him by the sovereign for distinguished services, prefixed to his native 

Origin of the Tartars 1 1 7 

have the same signification as Prester John in ours. 1 To him 
these Tartars paid yearly the tenth part of (the increase of) 
their cattle. In process of time the tribe multiplied so exceed 
ingly that Un-khan, that is to say, Prester John, becoming 
apprehensive of their strength, conceived the plan of separating 
them into different bodies, who should take up their abode in 
distinct tracts of country. With this view also, whenever the 
occasion presented itself, such as a rebellion in any of the pro 
vinces subject to him, he drafted three or four in the hundred of 
these people, to be employed on the service of quelling it ; and 
thus their power was gradually diminished. He in like manner 
despatched them upon other expeditions, and sent among them 
some of his principal officers to see that his intentions were 
carried into effect. At length the Tartars, becoming sensible 
of the slavery to which he attempted to reduce them, resolved 
to maintain a strict union amongst themselves, and seeing that 
nothing short of their final ruin was in contemplation, they 
adopted the measure of removing from the places which they 
then inhabited, and proceeded in a northerly direction across a 
wide desert, until they felt assured that the distance afforded 
them security, when they refused any longer to pay to Un-khan 
the accustomed tribute. 2 

title of khan, his original name having been Toghrul. According to 
J. R. Forster, following the authority of Fischer s Hist, of Siberia, " he 
reigned over the Karaites, a tribe residing near the river Kallassui 
(Karasibi), which discharges itself into the Abakan, and afterwards into 
the Jenisea; and here at this very day live the Kirgises, who have a 
tribe among them which they call Karaites." Voyages, etc. p. 141. 

1 Whatever absurdity and ridicule may be thought to attach to this 
extraordinary appellation of Prester or Presbyter John, as applied to a 
Tartar prince, it is not to be placed to the account of our author, who 
only repeats, and in terms of particular caution, what had already been 
current throughout Europe and amongst the Christians of Syria and 
Egypt, respecting this imaginary sacerdotal character, but real person 
age. Nothing is here asserted on his own knowledge; the transactions 
were understood to have taken place nearly a century before the time 
when he wrote, and in speaking of them he employs the guarded ex 
pression, " come intesi" [The best information on the subject of Prester 
John will be found in the Introduction to the " Relation des Mongols ou 
Tartares; par le frere Jean du Plan de Carpin," by M. D Avezac.] 

2 This assertion of independence is attributed by the Persian and 
Arabian historians to the enterprising character and military talents of 
Temujin (afterwards Jengiz-khan), who, when he had passed eighteen 
years in the service of Ung-khan, became the object of his jealousy, and 
was compelled to a precipitate flight in order to save his life. The suc 
cessful issue of some partial engagements that ensued having increased 
considerably the number of those who were attached to him, he retired, 
with his little army, to the country of the Mungals, of which he was a 
native. Being received with open arms, he concerted with them his 
schemes of vengeance against his enemies. 

1 1 8 Travels of Marco Polo 



SOME time after the migration of the Tartars to this place, and 
about the year of our Lord 1162* they proceeded to elect for 
their king a man who was named Chingis-khan, one of approved 
integrity, great wisdom, commanding eloquence, and eminent 
for his valour. He began his reign with so much justice and 
moderation, that he was beloved and revered as their deity 
rather than their sovereign ; and the fame of his great and good 
qualities spreading over that part of the world, all the Tartars, 
however dispersed, placed themselves under his command. 
Finding himself thus at the head of so many brave men, he 
became ambitious of emerging from the deserts and wilder 
nesses by which he was surrounded, and gave them orders to 
equip themselves with bows and such other weapons as they 
were expert at using, from the habits of their pastoral life. 
He then proceeded to render himself master of cities and 
provinces; and such was the effect produced by his character 
for justice and other virtues, that wherever he went, he found 
the people disposed to submit to him, and to esteem them 
selves happy when admitted to his protection and favour. In 
this manner he acquired the possession of about nine pro 
vinces. Nor is his success surprising, when we consider that 
at this period each town and district was either governed by 
the people themselves, or had its petty king or lord; and as 
there existed amongst them no general confederacy, it was 
impossible for them to resist, separately, so formidable a 
power. Upon the subjugation of these places, he appointed 
governors to them, who were so exemplary in their conduct 
that the inhabitants did not suffer, either in their persons or 

1 Our author appears in this instance to have mistaken the year of 
Jengiz-khan s birth (though some place it in 1155) for that of his eleva 
tion to the throne. It was not until the year 1201 that he is stated 
to have acquired the command of the Mungal armies, nor until 1202 
according to the authorities followed by Petis de la Croix, or 1206 accord 
ing to De Guignes, that he was declared grand khan or emperor. About 
the same period it was that he changed his original name of Temujin for 
that by which he was afterwards known. The Latin and other texts 
give this date as 1187. 

Jengiz-Khan 1 19 

their properties ; and he likewise adopted the policy of taking 
along with him, into other provinces, the principal people, on 
whom he bestowed allowances and gratuities. 1 Seeing how 
prosperously his enterprises succeeded, he resolved upon 
attempting still greater things. With this view he sent am 
bassadors to Prester John, charged with a specious message, 
which he knew at the same time would not be listened to by 
that prince, demanding his daughter in marriage. 2 Upon 
receiving the application, the monarch indignantly exclaimed : 
" Whence arises this presumption in Chingis-khan, who, know 
ing himself to be my servant, dares to ask for the hand of my 
child? Depart instantly," he said, " and let him know from 
me, that upon the repetition of such a demand, I shall put him 
to an ignominious death." Enraged at this reply, Chingis- 
khan collected a very large army, at the head of which he 
entered the territory of Prester John, and encamping on a 
great plain called Tenduk, sent a message desiring him to 
defend himself. The latter advanced likewise to the plain with 
a vast army, and took his position at the distance of about ten 
miles from the other. 3 In this conjuncture Chingis-khan 
commanded his astrologers and magicians to declare to him 
which of the two armies, in the approaching conflict, should 
obtain the victory. Upon this they took a green reed, and 
dividing it lengthways into two parts, they wrote upon one the 
name of their master, and upon the other the name of Un-khan. 
They then placed them on the ground, at some distance from 
each other, and gave notice to the king that during the time of 

1 It was at the court of the grandson of Jengiz-khan that our author 
acquired an idea much too favourable of the virtues, although not per 
haps of the military talents, of this extraordinary man, who should be 
regarded as one of those scourges of mankind, which, like plague, pestil 
ence, or famine, is sent from time to time to visit and desolate the world. 

2 According to the writers whom Petis de la Croix has followed, Temujin 
had been already married to the daughter of Ung-khan, when the in 
trigues of his rivals drove him from the court of his father-in-law, to 
whom he had rendered the most important military services. 

3 The name of this plain, which in the older Latin as well as in Ramu- 
sio s text is Tenduch, and in the Basle edition Tanduc, is Tangut in the 
Italian epitomes. This last may probably be a mistake, and certainly 
this place is not to be confounded with the Tangut already spoken of as 
connected with Tibet; but there is much reason to suppose that our 
author meant the country of the Tungusi (a name that bears no slight 
resemblance to Tangut), which is about the sources of the Amur, and in 
the vicinity of the Baikal lake. According to De Guignes and P. Gaubil, 
the meeting of the armies took place between the rivers Toula and Kerlon, 
where other great Tartar battles have since been fought, in consequence, 
as may be presumed, of the local circumstances being suited to the opera 
tions of large bodies of cavalry. 

1 20 Travels of Marco Polo 

their pronouncing their incantations, the two pieces of reed, 
through the power of their idols, would advance towards each 
other, and that the victory would fall to the lot of that monarch 
whose piece should be seen to mount upon the other. The 
whole army was assembled to be spectators of this ceremony, 
and whilst the astrologers were employed in reading their books 
of necromancy, they perceived the two pieces begin to move 
and to approach, and after some small interval of time, that 
inscribed with the name of Chingis-khan to place itself upon 
the top of its adversary. 1 Upon witnessing this, the king and 
his band of Tartars marched with exultation to the attack of 
the army of Un-khan, broke through its ranks and entirely 
routed it. Un-khan himself was killed, his kingdom fell to the 
conqueror, and Chingis-khan espoused his daughter. After 
this battle he continued during six years to render himself 
master of additional kingdoms and cities; until at length, in 
the siege of a castle named Thaigin, 2 he was struck by an arrow 
in the knee, and dying of the wound, was buried in the moun 
tain of Altai. 



To Chingis-khan succeeded Cyhn-khan; the third was Bathyn- 
khan, the fourth Esu-khan, the fifth Mongu-khan, the sixth 
Kublai-khan, 3 who became greater and more powerful than all 

1 The mode of divination by what the French terra baguettes is common 
in the East. Petis de la Croix upon introducing into his text this story 
of " la canne verte," from our author s work, observes in a note: " Cette 
operation des Cannes a ete en usage chez les Tartares, et Test encore a 
present chez les Africains, chez les Turcs et autres nations Mahometanes." 
-P. 65. 

8 The accident here said to have befallen Jengiz-khan is not mentioned 
by any of the historians; nor does it appear what place is intended by 
the name of Thaigin. He is said, on the contrary, to have died of sick 
ness (in 1226), shortly after the reduction of the city of Lin-tao, in the 
province of Shen-si, from whence he had retired, on account of the bad 
quality of the air where his army was encamped, to a mountain named 
Leou-pan. It is not, however, to be concluded that our author is there 
fore wrong, or that Jengiz did not receive a wound, which in an un 
wholesome climate might have occasioned or accelerated his death. 

3 This account of the successors of Jengiz-khan being so much less 
accurate than might be expected from one who was many years in the 

History of the Tartars 1 2 1 

the others, inasmuch as he inherited what his predecessors 
possessed, and afterwards, during a reign of nearly sixty 

service of his grandson, it is not unreasonable to presume that some of 
the barbarous names of these princes may have been omitted and others 
disfigured by the early transcribers. We are the more warranted in this 
supposition, because in the different versions we find the names to vary 
considerably; and instead of the Chyn, Bathyn, and Esu of Ramusio s 
edition, we have in one text Cui, Barchim, and Allau, and in another, 
Carce, Saim, and Rocon. In the name of Mongu, or Mangu, only they 
are all nearly agreed. As the most effectual way of detecting, and in 
some instances of reconciling the inaccuracies, I shall state the filiation 
according to the authority of historians, and compare with it the con 
fused lists attributed to our author. 

Jengiz-khan, who died about the end of the year 1226, had four sons, 
whose names were Juji, Jagatal, Oktai, and Tuli ; of these Juji, the eldest, 
who in other dialects is called Tushi and Dushi, died during the lifetime 
of Jengiz, leaving a son named Batu, called also, by the Mahometan 
writers, Saien-khan and Sagin-khan. He inherited, in right of his 
father, that portion of the empire which included Kapchak and other 
countries in the neighbourhood of the Wolga and the Don ; and his con 
quests on the side of Russia, Poland, and Hungary, rendered him the 
terror of Europe. He did not succeed to the dignity of grand khan, or 
head of the family, and died in 1256. This was evidently the Bathyn of 
one version of our text, and the Saim of another; but the Barchim of a 
third seems rather to be intended for Barkah, his brother and successor. 
Jagatai, or Zagatai, had for his portion of his father s dominions the 
country beyond the Oxus, Turkistan, or, as it has since been termed, the 
country of the Uzbek Tartars. He died in 1240, and also without having 
succeeded to the imperial dignity. His name, although elsewhere men 
tioned by our author, is here omitted, as would on that account have 
been proper, if the name of Batu had not been introduced. Oktai, or 
Ugdai, the third son, was declared by Jengiz his successor as grand khan, 
or supreme head of the dynasty, with the new title of kaan. His parti 
cular share of the empire was the original country of the Moghuls or 
Mungals, with its dependencies, and the kingdom of the Niu-tch6 Tartars, 
including so much of Northern China as was then conquered. The total 
omission of his name, who was one of the most distinguished of the 
family, and particularly in the wars of the last-mentioned country, not 
more than thirty-five years oefore the arrival of our author, is quite 
extraordinary, if to be imputed to ignorance or want of recollection on 
his part. Oktai died in 1241, and was succeeded in the imperial station 
(after a female regency of five years) by his son Kaiuk, or Gaiuk, who 
reigned only one year, and died in 1248. By Piano Carpini, a friar minor, 
(who was sent by Pope Innocent IV. to the court of Batu, whom he terms 
the Duke Baatu or Bathy, and by him to Gaiuk, his sovereign, then 
newly elected,) he is named Cuyne, by the Chinese Key-yeu, and by our 
author Chyn or Cui, according to different readings. The fourth son of 
Jengiz, whose name was Tuli or Tului, died in 1232, during the reign of 
his brother Oktai, leaving four sons, named Mangu, Kublai, Hulagu, 
and Artigbuga, besides others of less historical fame. Of these, Mangu 
or Mongu was chosen, in 1251, to succeed his cousin Gaiuk as grand khan, 
and chiefly through the influence of Batu, who had a superior claim, as 
the son of the eldest brother, but seems not to have affected that dignity. 
One of the first acts of Mangu was to send Hulagu (from Kara-korum, 
his capital) with a powerful army that enabled him to subdue the coun 
tries of Khorasan, Persia, Chaldea, and a great part of Syria. He 
founded the great dynasty of the Moghuls of Persia, which after a few 
generations threw off its dependence, more nominal than real, upon the 

122 Travels of Marco Polo 

years/ acquired, it may be said, the remainder of the world. 
The title of khan or kaan, is equivalent to emperor in our 
language. It has been an invariable custom, that all the grand 
khans, and chiefs of the race of Chingis-khan, should be carried 
for interment to a certain lofty mountain named Altai , and in 
whatever place they may happen to die, although it should be 
at the distance of a hundred days journey, they are neverthe 
less conveyed thither. It is likewise the custom, during the 
progress of removing the bodies of these princes, for those who 
form the escort to sacrifice such persons as they chance to meet 
on the road, saying to them, " Depart for the next world, 
and there attend upon your deceased master," being impressed 
with the belief that all whom they thus slay do actually become 
his servants in the next life. They do the same also with 
respect to horses, killing the best of the stud, in order that he 
may have the use of them. When the corpse of Mongu was 
transported to this mountain, the horsemen who accompanied 
it, having this blind and horrible persuasion, slew upwards of 
twenty thousand persons who fell in their way. 2 

head of the empire. The name of Hulagu, which in other parts of the 
work is softened to Alau, seems to be that which is here still further cor 
rupted to Esu, by the mistake of a letter, for Elu. In the Latin version 
of the same passage it is Allau. Mangu died in 1259 ( or J 256), in the 
province of Se-chuen in China, whilst engaged in the prosecution of the 
war in that country. Respecting his name there is no ambiguity. 
Kublai, who was upon the spot, assumed the command of the army, and 
was soon after chosen grand khan, although with much opposition on 
the part of his brother Artigbuga, who was strongly supported, and ven 
tured to set up the imperial standard at Kara-korum. Kublai pro 
ceeded, in 1268, to subdue the kingdom of Manji, or Southern China, at 
that time ruled by the dynasty of Song, whose capital, named Hong- 
cheu, was taken in 1276, and the whole was annexed to his empire in 
1280; from which year his reign, as emperor of China, is made to com 
mence in the Chinese annals, where he appears by the title of Yuen-chi- 
tsu. His death is placed in the beginning of 1294, being then in the 
eightieth year of his age. He was the fifth grand khan of this family, and 
after his decease the descendants of their common ancestor, who ruled 
the provinces in the west and south, no longer acknowledged a para 
mount sovereign. 

1 As Kublai was elected grand khan in 1260, and died in 1294, his 
reign was strictly about thirty- four years; but having been appointed 
viceroy to his brother Mangu, in China, so early as 1251, it may be con 
sidered as having lasted forty- three; and he was probably employed 
there in the command of armies at a period still earlier. The assertion, 
however, of his having reigned sixty years cannot be justified, and must 
have originated in a mistake or transposition of figures, which should 
perhaps have been XL instead of LX. 

* The existence of such an atrocious custom amongst the Monghul 
Tartars has been questioned. But the Chinese annals are not without 
instances of the practice of immolation at funerals; and we find that, so 
late as the year 1661, the Tartar emperor Shun-chi commanded a human 
sacrifice upon the death of a favourite mistress. Voluit tamen," says 

Wandering Life of the Tartars 123 



Now that I have begun speaking of the Tartars, I will tell you 
more about them. The Taxtarsjiever remain fixed, but as the 
winter approaches remove to the plains of a warmer region, in 
order to find sufficient pasture for their cattle; and in summer 
they frequent cold situations in the mountains* where there is 
water and verdure, and their cattle are free from the annoyance 
of horse-flies and other biting insects. During two or three 
months they progressively ascend higher ground, and seek 
fresh pasture, the grass not being adequate in any one place to 
feed the multitudes of which their herds and flocks consist. 1 
Their huts or tents are formed of rods covered with felt, and 

P. Couplet, " triginta hominum spent anea morte placari manes concu- 
binae, ritu apud Sinas execrando, quern barbarum morem successor deinde 
sustulit." (Tab. Chronological Monarchies Sinicse, p. joo.) In the 
account of the conquest of China by the Mantchou Tartars, written by 
the Jesuit Martinius, we are told that the Mantchou king Tien-ming, in 
vading China to avenge the murder of his father, swore that, in allusion 
to the customs of the Tartars, he would celebrate the funeral of the mur 
dered king by the slaughter of two hundred thousand Chinese. This 
supports Marco Polo s story in a remarkable manner. The number 
stated to have been sacrificed by those who accompanied the body of 
Mangu-khan varies considerably in the. different versions, and in the epi 
tomes is made to amount to 300,000. Marsden s text states it at 10,000, 
but the authority of the early manuscripts seems to be in favour of the 
number given in our text. 

1 This periodical migration of the Tartar tribes is matter of so much 
notoriety, that our author s account of it scarcely needs to be corro 
borated by authorities ; but the following passage from Du Halde will 
be found circumstantially applicable: Tous les Mongous vivent aussi 
de la meme maniere, errans $&. et 1 avec leurs troupeaux, et demeurans 
campez dans les lieux ou ils sont commodement, et ou ils trouvcnt le 
meilleur fourage. En ete ils se placent ordinairement dans des lieux 
decouverts pres de quelque riviere ou de quelque etang, et s il n y en a 
point, aux environs de quelque puits : en hy ver ils cherchent les montagnes 
et les collines, ou du moms ils s etablissent derriere quelque hauteur, ou 
ils soient a convert du vent de Nord, qui est en ce pays-li extremement 
froid; la niege supplee & 1 eau qui leur manque. Chaque souverain 
demeure dans son pays, sans qu il soit permis ni & lui, ni & ses sujets, 
d aller dans les terres des autres; mais dans Petendue des terres qui leur 
appartiennent ils campent ou ils voulent." (Tom. iv. p. 38.) " The 
summer station," says Elphinstone, is called eilauk, and the winter 
station kishlauk, two words which both the Afghauns and Persians have 
borrowed from the Tartars." -Account of Caubul, p. 390. 

124 Travels of Marco Polo 

being exactly round, and nicely put together, they can gathei 
them into one bundle, and make them up as packages, which 
they carry along with them in their migrations, upon a sort of 
car with four wheels. 1 When they have occasion to set them 
up again, they always make the entrance front to the south. 2 
Besides these cars they have a superior kind of vehicle upon 
two wheels, covered likewise with black felt, and so effectually 
as to protect those within it from wet, during a whole day of 
rain. These are drawn by oxen and camels, and serve to con 
vey their wives and children, their utensils, and such provisions 
as they require. 3 The women it is who attend to their trading 
concerns, who buy and sell, and provide everything necessary 
for their husbands and their families ; 4 the time of the men 
being entirely devoted to hunting and hawking, and matters 
that relate to the military life. They have the best falcons 
in the world, and also the best dogs. They subsist entirely 

1 The tents are thus described by Bell, as he saw them among the Kal 
muks, encamped near the Wolga: " The Tartars had their tents pitched 
along the river side. These are of a conical figure; there are several 
long poles" erected inclining to each other, which are fixed at the top into 
something like a hoop, that forms the circumference of an aperture for 
letting out the smoke or admitting the light: across the poles are laid 
some small rods, from four to six feet long, and fastened to them by 
thongs. This frame is covered with pieces of felt, made of coarse wool 
and hair. These tents afford better shelter than any other kind, and 
are so contrived as to be set up, taken down, folded, and packed up, with 
great ease and quickness, and so light that a camel may carry five or six 
of them." (Tom. i. p. 29.) See also Du Halde. 

2 " When they take downe their dwelling houses (from off their carts), 
they turn the doores always to the south." (Purchas, Journal of Rubru- 
quis, vol. iii. p. 3.) This opening of the door-way to the south appears 
to be the universal practice in Tartary, as well with fixed as with move- 
able houses, in order to guard as much as possible against the rude effects 
of the northerly wind. It will be seen hereafter that the same custom 
subsists in the northern provinces of China. 

3 " They make certayne four-square baskets of small slender wickers 
as bigge as great chests; and afterward, from one side to another, they 
frame an hollow Hdde or cover of such like wickers, and make a doore in 
the fore-side thereof. And then they cover the said chest or little house 
with black felt, rubbed over with tallow or sheep s milk to keep the rain 
from soaking through, which they deck likewise with painting or with 
feathers. And in such chests they put their whole household-stuffe and 
treasure. Also the same chests they do strongly binde upon other carts, 
which are drawne with camels." Purchas, vol. iii. p. 3. 

* This custom of the men committing to the females the management 
of their trading concerns, is authenticated by P. Gerbillon, who accom 
panied the emperor Kanghi in his expeditions. (Du Halde, torn. iv. p. 
115.) Elphinstone, also, speaking of a tribe in the Afghan country, 
called Hazoureh, and whom he considers as the remnant of a Tartar 
army left there, remarks that " the wife manages the house, takes care 
of the property, does her share of the honours, and is very much con 
sulted in all her husband s measures."- Account of Caubul, p. 483. 

The Tartar Women 125 

upon flesh and milk, eating the produce of their sport, and a 
certain small animal, not unlike a rabbit, called by our people 
Pharaoh s mice, which, during the summer season are found 
in great abundance in the plains. 1 But they likewise eat flesh 
of every description, horses, camels, and even dogs, provided 
they are fat. They drink mares milk, which they prepare in 
such a manner that it has the qualities and flavour of white 
wine. They term it in their language kemurs. 2 Their women 
are not excelled in the world for chastity and decency of con 
duct, nor for love and duty to their husbands. Infidelity to 
the marriage bed is regarded by them as a vice not merely dis 
honourable, but of the most infamous nature; 3 whilst on the 
other hand it is admirable to observe the loyalty of the hus 
bands towards their wives, amongst whom, although there are 
perhaps ten or twenty, there prevails a degree of quiet and 
union that is highly laudable. No offensive language is ever 
heard, their attention being fully occupied with their traffic 
(as already mentioned) and their several domestic employ 
ments, such as the provision of necessary food for the family, 

1 " On these hills (near the Selinga river) are a great number of animals 
called marmots, of a brownish colour, having feet like a badger, and 
nearly of the same size. They make deep burrows on the declivities of 
the hills ; and it is said that in winter they continue in these holes, for a 
certain time, even without food. At this season, however, they sit or 
lie near their burrows, keeping a strict watch, and at the approach of 
danger rear themselves on their hind feet, giving a loud whistle, and then 
drop into their holes in a moment." (Bell s Travels, vol. i. p. 311.) The 
description given of the animal by Du Halde accords best with our 
author s account: Get animal (aussi petit qu une hermine) est une 
espece de rat de terre, fort commun dans certains quartiers des Kalkas. 
Les tael-pi se tiennent sous la terre, ou ils creusent une suite d autant de 
petites tanieres qu il y a de males dans leur troupe: un d eux est toujours 
au dehors, qui fait le guet, mais qui fuit des qu il appercoit quelqu un, 
et se precipite en terre aussitot qu on s approche de mi. . . . On en prend 
a la fois un tres-grand nombre." Tom. iv. p. 30. 

1 The word here written chemurs or kemurs, and in the Latin edition 

purpose, as it would seem, of separating the butter), and by such process 
rendered intoxicating to a certain degree. It will in this state bear keep 
ing for several months, and is the favourite drink of all the tribes of Tar 
tars. The national beverage of the Uzbeks, Elphinstone observes, 
is kimmiz, an intoxicating liquor, well known to be prepared from 
mares milk." (P. 470.) This (distilled) spirit, although produced from 
the same materials, must be distinguished from the kimmuz, with which, 
however, it is confounded by some writers. Rubruquis furnishes a cir 
cumstantial account of these preparations of milk in all their stages. 

It must be observed," says Bell, " to the honour of their women, 
that they are very honest and sincere, and few of them lewd: adultery 
is a crime scarce ever heard of." Vol. i. p. 31. 

126 Travels of Marco Polo 

the management of the servants, and the care of the children, 
which are amongst them a common concern. And the more 
praiseworthy are the virtues of modesty and chastity in the 
wives, because the men are allowed the indulgence of taking as 
many as they choose. 1 Their expense to the husband is not 
great, and on the other hand the benefit he derives from their 
trading, and from the occupations in which they are constantly 
engaged, is considerable; on which account it is, that when he 
receives a young woman in marriage, he pays a dower to her 
parent. 2 The wife who is the first espoused has the privilege 
of superior attention, and is held to be the most legitimate, 
which extends also to the children borne by her. In conse 
quence of this unlimited number of wives, the offspring is more 
numerous than amongst any other people. Upon the death of 
the father, the son may take to himself the wives he leaves 
behind, with the exception of his own mother. They cannot 
take their sisters to wife, but upon the death of their brothers 
they can marry their sisters-in-law. 3 Every marriage is 
solemnized with great ceremony. 



THE doctrine and faith of the Tartars are these : They believe 
in a deity whose nature is sublime and heavenly. To him 

1 " Quoique la polygamie," says P. Gerbillon, " ne soit plus defendue 
parmi eux, ils n ont ordinairement qu une femme." (Du Halde, torn, 
iv. p. 39.) The practice is described by other writers as more general; 
but in one tribe it may be more prevalent than in others. 

1 " Ils ne donnent point de douaire a leurs femmes/ ^says Thevenot, 
" mais les maris font des presens a leur pere et & leur frere sans lesqueis 
ils ne trouveroient point de femmes." (Relation des Tar tares, torn. i. 
p. 19.) " As touching marriages," says Rubruquis, " no man can have 
a wife till he hath bought her." Purchas, vol. iii. p. 7. 

8 " II n y a que cette difference," adds the translator of Abu lghazi, 
" entre les Tartares Mahometans et les autres, que les premiers observent 
quelques degres de parente dans lesquels il leur est defendu de se marier, 
au lieu que les Callmoucks et Moungales, Fexception de leurs meres 
naturelles, n observent aucune proximite du sang dans leurs manages." 
(P. 36, note.) " The sonne," says Rubruquis, marrieth sometimes 
all his father s wives except his owne mother." Purchas, vol. iii. p. 7. 

Religion of the Tartars i 27 

they burn incense in censers, and offer up prayers for the en 
joyment of intellectual and bodily health. 1 They worship 
another likewise, named Natigay, whose image, covered with 
felt or other cloth, every individual preserves in his house. 
To this deity they associate a wife and children, placing the 
former on his left side, and the latter before him, in a posture 
of reverential salutation. Him they consider as the divinity 
who presides over their terrestrial concerns, protects their 
children, and guards their cattle and their grain. 2 They 
show him great respect, and at their meals they never omit to 
take a fat morsel of the flesh, and with it to grease the mouth 
of the idol, and at the same time the mouths of its wife and 
children. They then throw out of the door some of. the 
liquor in which the meat has been dressed, as an offering to 
the other spirits. 3 This being done, they consider that their 
deity and his family have had their proper share, and proceed 
to eat and drink without further ceremony. The rich amongst 

1 " The religion of the Buraty," says Bell, " seems to be the same with 
that of the Kalmucks, which is downright paganism of the grossest kind. 
They talk, indeed, of an almighty and good Being, who created all things, 
whom they call Burchun; but seem bewildered in obscure and fabulous 
notions concerning his nature and government. They have two high 
priests, to whom they pay great respect; one is called Delay-lama, the 
other Kutukhtu." (Bell s Travels, vol. i. p. 248.) " The Mongalls 
believe in and worship one almighty Creator of all things. They hold 
that the Kutukhtu is God s vicegerent on earth, and that there will be 
a future state of rewards and punishments." (P. 281.) " I am informed 
that the religion of the Tonguts is the same with that of the Mongalls; 
that they hold the same opinions with respect to the transmigration of 
the Delay-lama as the Mongalls do about the Kutukhtu, and that he is 
elected in the same manner." (P. 283.) The hierarchy of which the 
Dalai or Grand Lama is generally considered as the head, was not es 
tablished until so late as about the year 1426, according to Gaubil; but 
the lamas simply, as priests of Shakia-muni, appear to have existed from 
a remote period, and the shamuns, in the northern parts of Tartary, to 
be lamas in a ruder state of society. The Kutukhtus stand in the same 
relation to the Grand Lama as the cardinals, or perhaps more nearly the 
cardinal-legates, to the pope. 

2 This Tartar idol, whose name is written Natagai in the Latin editions, 
and Nachigai in the Italian epitomes, is the Itoga of Plan de Carpin; by 
whom the superstitious practices of these people are described in the 
following manner: Us s adonnent fort aux predictions, augures, vol 
des oiseaux, sorcelleries, et enchantemens. Lorsque le diable leur fait 
quelque r6ponse, ils croient que cela vient de Dieu meme, et le nommerit 
Itoga." Bergeron, p. 32. 

1 Then goeth a servant out of the house," says Rubruquis, " with a 
cup full of drinke, sprinkling it thrice towards the south, etc. . . 
When the master holdeth a cup in his hand to drinke, before he tasteth 
thereof, he poureth his part upon the ground." (Purchas, vol. iii. p. 4.) 
[The words in the early Latin text of our author are, " Postea accipiunt 
de brodio et projiciunt super eum per ostium domus suae cameras ubi 
stat ille deus eorum."] 

1 28 Travels of Marco Polo 

these people dress in cloth of gold and silks, with skins oi 
the sable, the ermine,, and other animals. All their accoutre 
ments are of an expensive kind. Their arms are bows, iron 
maces, and in some instances, spears; but the first is the 
weapon at which they are the most expert, being accustomed, 
from children, to employ it in their sports. 1 They wear 
defensive armour made of the thick hides of buffaloes and 
other beasts, dried by the fire, and thus rendered extremely 
hard and strong. They are brave in battle, almost to des 
peration, setting little value upon their lives, and exposing 
themselves without hesitation to all manner of danger. Their 
disposition is cruel. They are capable of supporting every 
kind of privation, and when there is a necessity for it, can 
live for a month on the milk of their mares, and upon such 
wild animals as they may chance to catch. Their horses are 
fed upon grass alone, and do not require barley or other 
grain. The men are habituated to remain on horseback during 
two days and two nights, without dismounting; sleeping in 
that situation whilst their horses graze. No people upon earth 
can surpass them in fortitude under difficulties, nor show 
greater patience under wants of every kind. They are pre- 
fectly obedient to their chiefs, and are maintained at small 
expense. From these qualities, so essential to the formation 
of soldiers, it is, that they are fitted to subdue the world, as in 
fact they have done in regard to a considerable portion of it. 



WHEN one of the great Tartar chiefs proceeds on an expedi 
tion, he puts himself at the head of an army of an hundred 
thousand horse, and organises them in the following manner. 
He appoints an officer to the command of every ten men, and 
others to command an hundred, a thousand, and ten thousand 
men, respectively. Thus ten of the officers commanding ten 

1 " They are armed," says Bell, " with bows and arrows, a sabre and 
lance, which they manage with great dexterity, acquired by constant 
practice from their infancy." -Vol. i. p. 30. 

Tartar Warfare 1 2 9 

men take their orders from him who commands a hundred; 
of these, each ten, from him who commands a thousand; and 
each ten of these latter, from him who commands ten thou 
sand. By this arrangement each officer has only to attend to 
the management of ten men or ten bodies of men; and when 
the commander of these hundred thousand men has occasion 
to make a detachment for any particular service, he issues his 
orders to the commanders of ten thousand to furnish him 
with a thousand men each; and these, in like manner, to the 
commanders of a thousand, who give their orders to those 
commanding a hundred, until the order reaches those com 
manding ten, by whom the number required is immediately 
supplied to their superior officers. A hundred men are in 
this manner delivered to every officer commanding a thou 
sand, and a thousand men to every officer commanding ten 
thousand. 1 The drafting takes place without delay, and all 
are implicitly obedient to their respective superiors. Every 
company of a hundred men is denominated a tuc, and ten of 
these constitute a toman. 2 When the army proceeds on ser 
vice, a body of men is sent two days march in advance, and 
parties are stationed upon each flank and in the rear, in order 
to prevent its being attacked by surprise. When the service 
is distant, they carry but little with them, and that, chiefly 
what is requisite for their encampment, and utensils for cook 
ing. They subsist for the most part upon milk, as has been 
said. Each man has, on an average, eighteen horses and 
mares, and when that which they ride is fatigued, they change 
it for another. They are provided with small tents made of 
felt, under which they shelter themselves against rain. Should 
circumstances render it necessary, in the execution of a duty 
that requires despatch, they can march for ten days together 
without dressing victuals, during which time they subsist upon 
the blood drawn from their horses, each man opening a vein, 
and drinking from his own cattle. 3 They make provision also 

1 The correctness of our author s account of the constitution of the 
Mungal armies will appear from comparing it with the detailed account 
in the French translation of Abu lghazi s History of the Tartars. 

2 Toman is the usual Persian term for a body of 10,000 men. The 
word tuc, as signifying " a hundred," is not to be found in the diction 
aries. It may, perhaps, be an orthographical corruption of duz, sus, 
yuz, by which that number is expressed in the dialects of different Tartar 

The Scythian or Sarmatian practice of drawing blood from horses, 
as an article of sustenance or luxurious indulgence, and also that of 
preserving milk for use, in a concrete form, were well known to the 


i 30 Travels of Marco Polo 

of milk, thickened and dried to the state of a hard paste (or 
curd), which is prepared in the following manner. They boil 
the milk, and skimming off the rich or creamy part as it rises 
to the top, put it into a separate vessel as butter; for so long 
as that remains in the milk, it will not become hard. The 
latter is then exposed to the sun until it dries. Upon going on 
service they carry with them about ten pounds for each man, 
and of this, half a pound is put, every morning, into a leathern 
bottle, or small outre, with as much water as is thought neces 
sary. By their motion in riding the contents are violently 
shaken, and a thin porridge is produced, upon which they make 
their dinner. 1 When these Tartars come to engage in battle, 
they never mix with the enemy, but keep hovering about him, 
discharging their arrows first from one side and then from the 
other, occasionally pretending to fly, and during their flight 
shooting arrows backwards at their pursuers, killing men and 
horses, as if they were combating face to face. In this sort 
of warfare the adversary imagines he has gained a victory, 
when in fact he has lost the battle; for the Tartars, observing 
the mischief they have done him, wheel about, and renewing 
the fight, overpower his remaining troops, and make them 
prisoners in spite of their utmost exertions. Their horses are 
so well broken-in to quick changes of movement, that upon the 
signal given, they instantly turn in every direction; and by 
these rapid manoeuvres many victories have been obtained. 
All that has been here related is spoken of the original manners 
of the Tartar chiefs; but at the present day they are much con- 
rupted. 2 Those who dwell at Ukaka, forsaking their own 
laws, have adopted the customs of the people who worship 

1 " On long marches," says Bell, " all their provisions consist of cheese, 
or rather dried curd, made up into little balls, which they drink when 
pounded and mixed with water." (Vol. i. p. 34.) We were pre 
sented," says Turner, " with a profusion of fresh, rich milk, and a pre 
paration called, in the language of India, dhy, which is milk acidulated 
by means of buttermilk boiled in it, and kept till it is slightly coagulated. 
The kummuz of the Tartars is mares milk, prepared by the same process: 
this is sometimes dried in masses till it resembles chalk; and is used to 
give a relish to the water they drink, by solution with it. I have been 
told that the operation of drying it is sometimes performed by tying the 
dhy tight in bags of cloth, and suspending it under the horses bellies." 

-Embassy to Tibet, p. 195. 

2 By the corruption of manners he may be supposed to allude to 
the effects produced by the conquest of China, which gave to these rude 
and hardy people a taste for the enjoyment of ease and luxuries. So 
enervated did the Mungals become, before the expiration of a century, 
that they were ignominiously driven back to their deserts by an insur 
rection of the Chinese population. 

Administration of Justice 131 

idols, and those who inhabit the eastern provinces have adopted 
the manners of the Saracens. 1 



JUSTICE is administered by them in the following manner. 
When a person is convicted of a robbery not meriting the 
punishment of death, he is condemned to receive a certain 
number of strokes with a cane, seven, seventeen, twenty-seven, 
thirty-seven, forty-seven, or as far as one hundred and seven, 
according to the value of the article stolen and circumstances 
of the theft; and many die under this chastisement. 2 When 
for stealing a horse or other article that subjects the offender 
to capital punishment, he is condemned to suffer death, the 
sentence is executed by cutting his body in two with a sword. 3 
But if the thief has the means of paying nine times the value 
of the property stolen, he escapes all further punishment. It 
is usual for every chief of a tribe or other person possessing 
large cattle, such as horses, mares, camels, oxen, or cows, to 
distinguish them by his mark, and then to suffer them to graze 
at large, in any part of the plains or mountains, without em 
ploying herdsmen to look after them; and if any of them should 
happen to mix with the cattle of other proprietors, they are 
restored to the person whose mark they bear. Sheep and goats, 
on the contrary, have people to attend them. Their cattle 
of every kind are well-sized, fat, and exceedingly handsome. 4 

1 As the situation of Ukaha, or Ouchacha, is here placed in opposition 
to that of the eastern provinces, we may presume it to be Okak, or Okaka, 
of Abulfeda, on the banks of the Etel or Wolga, not far from Sarai, which 
was visited by the father and uncle of our author, in their first journey. 
The relative term eastern is not, however, intended to apply to those 
provinces which we, in respect to China, call Eastern Tartary, but to 
the country lying eastward of the Caspian. 

2 To this punishment, which is known to be common in China, the 
Portuguese have given the name of bastanado (from bastano, a staff or 

3 In China, where the criminal law of the Tartars may be supposed to 
have had much influence, the punishments of decapitation and of cutting 
the bodies into many pieces, are in use for certain great offences. 

4 " Their horned cattle," says Bell, " are very large. Their sheep 
have broad tails, and their mutton is excellent. They have also great 
abundance of goats." Vol. i. p. 246. 

132 Travels of Marco Polo 

When one man has had a son,, and another man a daughter, 
although both may have been dead for some years, they have 
a practice of contracting a marriage between their deceased 
children, and of bestowing the girl upon the youth. They at 
the same time paint upon pieces of paper human figures to 
represent attendants with horses and other animals, dresses of 
all kinds, money, and every article of furniture ; and all these, 
together with the marriage contract, which is regularly drawn 
up, they commit to the flames, in order that through the 
medium of the smoke (as they believe) these things may be 
conveyed to their children in the other world, and that they 
may become husband and wife in due form. After this cere 
mony, the fathers and mothers consider themselves as mutu 
ally related, in the same manner as if a real connexion had 
taken place between their living children. 1 Having thus 
given an account of the manners and customs of the Tartars, 
although not yet of the brilliant acts and enterprises of their 
grand khan, who is lord of all the Tartars, we shall now return 
to our former subject, that is, to the extensive plain which we 
were traversing when we stopped to relate the history of this 

1 This custom, however extraordinary, is of the same character as 
many of the grave absurdities to be found in the Chinese institutions. 
We are told by P. Navarette that it exists in one of the northern pro 
vinces, bordering on the country of the Mungals, and where of course 
we may look for a similarity of practices. In the province of Shan-si," 
he says, " they have a ridiculous custom, which is, to marry dead folks. 
F. Michael Trigaucius, a Jesuit, who lived several years in that province, 
told it us whilst we were confined. It falls out that one man s son and 
another s daughter die. Whilst the coffins are in the house (and they 
use to keep them two or three years or longer) the parents agree to marry 
them; they send the usual presents as if they were alive, with much 
ceremony and music. After this they put together the two coffins, keep 
the wedding dinner before them, and lastly they lay them together in 
one tomb. The parents from this time are looked upon not only as 
friends but relations, as they would have been had their children been 
married living." (Churchill s Collect, vol. i. p. 69.) This," says 
Malcolm, " is said to be still an usage in Tartary. They throw the con 
tract in the fire, and conceive the smoke ascends to the departed children, 
who marry in the other world. Petit de la Croix, in his life of Chenghiz, 
mentions this fact ; and I find it stated in a Persian manuscript written 
by a man of learning and information." Hist, of Persia, vol. i. p. 413, 

The Plain of Bargu 133 



UPON leaving Kara-koran and the mountains of Altai , the 
burial-place, as has been said, of the imperial Tartar family, 
you proceed, in a northern direction, through a country 
termed the plain of Bargu, extending to the distance of about 
forty days journey. 1 The people who dwell there are called 
Mekriti, 2 a rude tribe, who live upon the flesh of animals, the 
largest of which are of the nature of stags; and these they 
also make use of for the purposes of travelling. 3 They feed 

1 The name of Bargu appears in Strahlenberg s map of Tartary, near 
the south-western part of the lake or sea of Baikal, and in D Anville s 
on the north-east side, but by our author it is applied to the country 
extending from thence, many days journey towards the Frozen Ocean, 
and seems to correspond to what we term Siberia. This misapplication 
(as he considers it) is noticed by Strahlenberg, who observes, that " the 
name of Bargu is to be found in the old map of Great Tartary, though in 
a very wrong place, viz. towards the Mare Glaciale." (Note 8, p. 14.) 
It may have happened, however, that in the course of four centuries one 
vague appellation may have superseded another; and I believe it will 
not be contended that Siberia is the indigenous name of the region on 
which it has been bestowed. 

2 Of this tribe of Mekriti, which in the epitomes is Mecriit, but in the 
Latin edition Meditae (Mecaci in the early Latin), frequent mention is 
made in the Tartar histories, by the name of Merkit and Markat, whose 
country was amongst the first of the conquests made by Jengiz-khan, 
being in his immediate vicinity. Its situation is not pointed out with 
any degree of precision, but that it is far northwards may be inferred 
from a passage in L Histoire generate des Huns, where, speaking of the 
defeat of the Naimans and dispersion of their princes, it is said: " Tous 
prirent la fuite, et se retirerent vers la riviere d Irtisch, ou ils s etablirent, 
et y formerent un puissant parti qui etoit soutenu par Toctabegh, khan 
des Merkites." (Liv. xv. p. 23.) Ceux de la tribu des Markats," 
says Abu lghazi, avoient du temps de Zingis-Chan un chan appelle 
Tochtabegi, qui estoit tousjours aux prises avec Zingis-Chan." (Hist, 
geneal. p. 130.) This was probably the most northern tribe with whose 
name our author was acquainted, and although he now proceeds to speak 
(in very general terms) of those extensive regions which lie between the 
rivers Oby and Lena, it may be presumed that he knew nothing of 
them but from the report of others; nor does he attempt to make it 
understood that he had visited them in person. 

3 This is the well-known rein-deer, a large and beautiful species of 
cervus, in size equal to the elk, and in shape not unlike our red deer. 

i 34 Travels of Marco Polo 

likewise upon the birds that frequent their numerous lakes 
and marshes, as well as upon fish. It is at the moulting 
season, or during summer, that the birds seek these waters, 
and being then, from want of their feathers, incapable of 
flight, they are taken by the natives without difficulty. This 
plain borders on the ocean at its northern extremity. The 
customs and manners of the people resemble those of the 
Tartars that have been described, and they are subjects of the 
grand khan. They have neither corn nor wine ; and although 
in summer they derive subsistence from the chase, yet in 
winter the cold is so excessive that neither birds nor beasts 
can remain there. 1 Upon travelling forty days, as it is said, 
you reach the (northern) ocean. 2 Near to this is a mountain, 
in which, as well as in the neighbouring plain, vultures and 
peregrine falcons have their nests. Neither men nor cattle 
are found there, and of birds there is only a species called 
bargelak, and the falcons to which they serve for food. The 
former are about the size of a partridge, with tails like the 
swallow, claws like those of the parrot kind, and are swift of 
flight. When the grand khan is desirous of having a brood 
of peregrine falcons, he sends to procure them at this place; 
and in an island lying off the coast, gerfalcons are found in 
such numbers that his majesty may be supplied with as many 
of them as he pleases. 3 It must not be supposed that the 
gerfalcons sent from Europe for the use of the Tartars are 
conveyed to the court of the grand khan. They go only to 
some of the Tartar or other chiefs of the Levant, bordering on 
the countries of the Comanians and Armenians. This island is 
situated so far to the north that the polar constellation appears 
to be behind you, and to have in part a southerly bearing. 4 

1 The description of these people and their country corresponds with 
what we read of many of the savage tribes that wander over those in 
hospitable deserts through which the great northern rivers flow. 

8 This distance of forty days journey must be understood to com 
mence from the plain or steppe of Bargu. He speaks of it in a qualified 
manner, and not as of a tract that he had himself visited. 

3 " In the province of Dauria," says Strahlenberg, " and near the 
river Amour (the Saghalien oula of the Jesuits) there are a great many 
milk-white falcons, which are sent in great numbers to China." (P. 
361.) " I could not but admire," says Bell, " the beauty of these fine 
birds. . . . They are brought from Siberia, or places to the north of the 
river Amoor." (Travels, vol. ii. p. 79.) Among the presents sent by 
the Czar Ivan Basiliewitz, by his ambassador, to Queen Mary, in 1556 
(as mentioned by Hakluyt), was " a large and fair white jerfawcon, for 
the wild swan, crane, goose, and other great fowls." 

4 The Italian words, la stella tramontana," which in the text is 
translated " the polar constellation," should perhaps be, in strictness, 

The Kingdom of Erginul i 35 

Having thus spoken of the regions in the vicinity of the 
northern ocean, we shall now describe the provinces lying 
nearer to the residence of the grand khan, and shall return to 
that of Kampion, of which mention has already been made. 



UPON leaving Kampion, and proceeding five days journey 
towards the east, in the course of which travellers are fre 
quently terrified in the night-time by the voices of spirits, 
they reach a kingdom named Erginul, 1 subject to the grand 
khan, and included in the province of Tangut. Within the 
limits of this kingdom are several principalities, the inhabi 
tants of which are, in general, idolaters, with some few Nes- 
torian Christians and worshippers of Mahomet. Amongst 
many cities and strong places the principal one is Erginul. 
Proceeding from thence in a south-eastern direction, the road 
takes you to Cathay, and in that route you find a city called 
Singui, 2 in a district of the same name, where are many towns 

the " polar star." We must presume his meaning to have been that the 
conspicuous stars in the tail of the lesser bear, or perhaps what are called 
the pointers of the greater, appeared to the south of a person situated 
at the extreme part of the northern continent. In Fra Mauro s map we 
find the words: " Qui la Tramontana roman in mezzodi." 

1 By the corrupted name of Erginul or Ergi-nur, is meant (as may be 
conjectured from the circumstances) that district of Tangut which is 
called by the Tartars Kokonor, and by the Chinese, Hohonor or Hohonol, 
and is by some considered as Tangut Proper. The distance of its lake 
from the city of Kampion or Kari-cheu is about one hundred and forty 
miles, in a direction nearly south, which could scarcely be travelled in 
five days, through a mountainous tract ; but the situation of its principal 
town may have been much nearer to that place, and perhaps to the east 
ward of its meridian, on the banks of the Olanmuren. In the Basle 
edition the name is written Erigimul, in the older Latin, Ergimul, and in 
the Italian epitomes, Ergiuul; but none of them, apparently, more cor 
rect than the Ergi-nul of Ramusio; the latter part of which seems to be 
the word ntir or nor, signifying a lake. 

2 Singui (as the name appears in the texts of Ramusio, of the Basle 
edition, and of the older Latin, but in the manuscripts, Signi an<J Sigui, 


Travels of Marco Polo 

and castles, in like manner belonging to Tangut, and undei 
the dominion of the grand khan. 1 The population of this 
country consists chiefly of idolaters; but there are also some 
Mahometans and Christians. Here are found many wild 
cattle that, in point of size, may be compared to elephants. 
Their colour is a mixture of white and black, and they are 
very beautiful to the sight. The hair upon every part of 
their bodies lies down smooth, excepting upon the shoulder, 
where it stands up to the height of about three palms. This 
hair, or rather wool, is white, and more soft and delicate than 
silk. 2 Marco Polo carried some of it to Venice, as a singular 
curiosity, and such it was esteemed by all who saw it. Many 
of these cattle taken wild have become domesticated, and the 
breed produced between them and the common cow are noble 
animals, and better qualified to undergo fatigue than any other 
kind. They are accustomed to carry heavier burthens and to 
perform twice the labour in husbandry that could be derived 

and in the epitomes, Sirigai) lias been supposed by some to mean the 
city of Si-gnan-fu, the capital of the province of Shen-si. But the latter 
is situated near the eastern border of the province, and in the heart of 
China; whereas it is Tangut that our author is still describing; and al 
though the western extremity of Shen-si formerly belonged to the Sifan 
or Tufan (people of Tangut), such was not the case with respect to the 
interior part of the province. Singui or Signi, on the contrary, was, I 
have no doubt, intended for the celebrated mart of Si-ning (the Selin of 
Pallas), on the western verge of Shen-si, and distant only a few days* 
journey, in a south-eastern direction, from Hohonor. It has been at 
all periods, and is at this day, the great halting-place for travellers be 
tween Tibet and Peking, and therefore properly said to lie in the road 
to Cathay. 

1 These numerous castles or forts are likewise noticed by Du Halde, 
who describes the western part of Shen-si as consisting of two great 
valleys, diverging from a point, and advancing, the one in a northern, 
the other in a western direction, into the country of the Sifan. This 
tract formed no original part of the empire, but was a conquered dis 
trict, taken from Tangut (to which our author considers it as belonging 
in his time) and annexed to Shen-si. 

* This fine species of bos is particularly described by Turner, as well 
hi his Embassy to Tibet, as in the Asiatic Researches, vol. iv., by the 
name of the yak of Tartary, or bushy-tailed bull of Tibet. Over the 
shoulders," he observes, " rises a thick muscle, covered with a profusion 
of soft hair, which in general is longer and more copious than that along 
the ridge of the back to the setting on of the tail. The tail is composed 
of a prodigious quantity of long flowing, glossy hair. . . . The shoulders, 
rump, and upper part of the body are clothed with a sort of soft, thick 
wool; but the inferior parts with straight, pendent hair, that descends 
below the knee. . . . There is a great variety of colours amongst them, 
but black or white are the most prevalent." (Embassy, p. 186.) With 
respect to its height, which our author has magnified, it is said by Turner 
to be about that of the English bull; but, from the profuse quantity of 
hair with which it is covered, it seems to be " of great bulk." It is dis 
tinguished by the name of bos grunniens. 

The Animal Producing Musk 137 

from the ordinary sort, being both active and powerful. 1 In 
this country it is that the finest and most valuable musk is 
procured. 2 The animal which yields it is not larger than the 
female goat, but in form resembles the antelope. It is called 
in the Tartar language, gudderi. Its coat is like that of the 
larger kind of deer : its feet and tail are those of the antelope, 
but it has not the horns. It is provided with four projecting 
teeth or tusks, three inches in length, two in the upper jaw 
pointing downwards, and two in the lower jaw pointing up 
wards; small in proportion to their length, and white as 
ivory. Upon the whole it is a handsome creature. The musk 
is obtained in the following manner. At the time when the 
moon is at the full, a bag or imposthume of coagulated blood 
forms itself about the umbilical region, and those whose 
occupation it is to take the animal avail themselves of the 
moonlight for that purpose, when they cut off the membrane, 
and afterwards dry it, with its contents, in the sun. 3 It 

1 " They (the yaks, Turner adds) are a very valuable property to the 
tribes of itinerant Tartars called Dukba, who live in tents, and tend them 
from place to place; they at the same time afford their herdsmen an 
easy mode of conveyance, a good covering, and wholesome subsistence. 
They are never employed in agriculture," (it is obvious that this may 
not be the case in every district,) " but are extremely useful as beasts of 
burden; for they are strong, sure-footed, and carry a great weight." 
(P. 187.) These qualities are strongly exemplified in Moorcroft s Journey 
to Lake Manasarovera. Asiat. Res. vol. xii. 

2 It is generally asserted that the musk of Tibet, or of the part of Tar- 
tary bordering upon the north-west of China, is superior to that procured 
in the Chinese provinces. 

3 From Turner we have a particular, although unscientific, account of 
what is usually termed the musk deer, which in the language of Tibet he 
says, is called la, and the vascular covering of the musk, latcha. After 
speaking of the long-haired cattle, he proceeds in the next place (as does 
our author) to say: " The musk-deer top, which produce a valuable 
article of revenue, are in great abundance in the vicinity of these moun 
tains. This animal is observed to delight in the most intense cold, and 
is always found in places bordering on snow. Two long curved tusks, 
proceeding from the upper jaw, and directed downwards, seem intended 
principally to serve him for the purpose of digging roots, which are said 
to be his usual food; yet it is possible they may also be weapons of 
offence. . . . They are about the height of a moderately-sized hog, 
which they resemble much in the figure of the body; but they are still 
more like the hog-deer, so termed in Bengal, from the same similitude. 
They have a small head, a thick and round hind quarter, no scut, and 
extremely delicate limbs. The greatest singularity in this animal, is 
the sort of hair with which it is covered, which is prodigiously copious, 
and grows erect all over the body, between two and three inches long, 
lying smooth only where it is short, on the head, legs, and ears. . . . The 
colour, at the base, is white, in the middle black, and brown at the points. 
The musk is a secretion formed in a little bag or tumour, resembling a 
wen, situated at the navel; and is found only in the male." (Embassy 
to Tibet, p. 200.) In a work published at Calcutta in 1798, called the 

Oriental Miscellany," (vol. i. p. 129,) there is a scientific description 

i 3 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

proves the finest musk that is known. Great numbers are 
caught, and the flesh is esteemed good to eat. 1 Marco Polo 
brought with him to Venice the head and the feet of one of 
them dried. The inhabitants of this country employ them 
selves in trade and manufactures. They have grain in abun 
dance. The extent of the province is twenty-five 2 days 
journey. Pheasants are found in it that are twice the size of 
ours, but something smaller than the peacock. The tail 
feathers are eight or ten palms in length. 3 There are other 
pheasants also, in size and appearance like our own, as well as 
a great variety of other birds, some of which have beautiful 
plumage. The inhabitants are idolaters. 4 In person they are 
inclined to corpulency, and their noses are small. Their hair 
is black, and they have scarcely any beard, or only a few 
scattered hairs on the chin. 5 The women of the superior 
class are in like manner free from superfluous hairs; their 
skins are fair, and they are well formed ; but in their manners 
they are dissolute. The men are much devoted to female 
society; and, according to their laws and customs, they may 
have as many wives as they please, provided they are able to 
maintain them. If a young woman, although poor, be hand 
some, the rich are induced to take her to wife, and in order to 
obtain her, make valuable presents to her parents and rela 
tions, beauty alone being the quality held in estimation. We 
shall now take our leave of this district, and proceed to speak 
of another, situated further to the eastward. 

of the " Thibet Musk," by Dr. Fleming, with a plate from an accurate 
drawing of the animal, made by Mr. Home. See also an engraving oi 
the head, in Kirkpatrick s Account of Nepaul. 

1 The circumstance of the flesh serving for food is noticed by several 
modern writers. 

2 [The early Latin text reads fifteen.] 

3 This is probably the argus-pheasant (phasianus argus), which, al 
though a native of Sumatra, is said to be also found in the northern 
part of China. 

4 The religion of the lamas, which is idolatrous, prevails in the neigh 
bourhood of Si-ning, as well as in all the countries bordering on the pro 
vinces of Shen-si and Se-chuen, to the westward. 

6 [The early Latin text reads, " non habent barbam nisi in mento."] 

The Province of Egrigaia 139 



DEPARTING from Erginul, and proceeding easterly for eight 
days, you come to a country named Egrigaia, still belonging 
to the great province of Tangut, and subject to the grand 
khan, in which there are many cities and castles, the prin 
cipal one of which is called Kalacha. 1 The inhabitants are in 
general idolaters; but there are three churches of Nestorian 
Christians. In this city they manufacture beautiful camelots, 
the finest known in the world, of the hair of camels and like 
wise of white wool. 2 These are of a beautiful white. They 
are purchased by the merchants in considerable quantities, 
and carried to many other countries, especially to Cathay. 
Leaving this province, we shall now speak of another situated 
towards the (north-) east, named Tenduk, and shall thus enter 
upon the territory of Prester John. 

1 Neither the names of Egrigaya, Eggaya, Egygaia, or Egregia, not 
those of Kalacha, Calacia, Colatia, or Calatia, appear in any map that 
can be cited as authority. The former, however, has some resemblance 
to Uguria, Iguria, or the country of the Eighurs; and the latter to the 
name of the town called by Rubruquis, Cailac, and by B. Goez, Cialis; 
the supposed situation of which will be found in the map prefixed to 
Sherefeddin s History of Timur Bee, translated by P6tis de la Croix, at 
some distance to the westward of Turfan, by the name of Yulduz or 
Cialis. " We found one great citie there," says Rubruquis, " wherein 
was a mart, and great store of merchants frequenting it. ... All this 
country was wont to be called Organum; and the people thereof had 
their proper language, and their peculiar kind of writing.". ..." The 
first sort of these idolaters are called J ugures, whose land bordereth upon 
the foresaid land of Organum, within the said mountains eastward. . . . 
The citizens of the foresaid citie of Cailac had three idol- temples, and I 
entered into two of them, to behold their foolish superstitions." Pur- 
chas, vol. iii. p. 20. 

* It has been doubted (since the material used in the manufacture of 
shawls is known to be wool of a particular breed of sheep) whether the 
hair of camels is actually woven into cloth of any kind; but we learn 
from Elphinstone, that " oormuk, a fine cloth made of camels wool, a 
quantity of cotton, and some lambs skins are imported (into Caubul) 
from the Bokhara country." P. 295. 

140 Travels of Marco Polo 



TENDUK, 1 belonging to the territory of Prester John/ is an 
eastern province, in which there are many cities and castles, 
subject to the rule of the grand khan; all the princes of that 
family having remained dependent, since Chingis, the first 
emperor, subdued the country. The capital is likewise named 
Tenduk. The king now reigning is a descendant of Prester 
John, and is still Prester John, and named George. He is 
both a Christian and a priest; the greater part of the inhabi 
tants being also Christians. This king George holds his 
country as a fief of the grand khan; not, indeed, the entire 
possessions of the original Prester John, but a certain portion 
of them; and the khan always bestows upon him, as well as 
upon the other princes of his house, his daughters, and other 
females of the royal family, in marriage. In this province, 
the stone of which the azure colour is made is found in abun 
dance, and of fine quality. Here likewise they manufacture 
stuffs of camels hair. The people gain their subsistence by 
agriculture, trade, and mechanical labours. Although sub 
ject to the dominion of the grand khan, the king being a 

1 The plain of Tenduk has already been mentioned (p. 119, note 3 ) as 
the scene of a famous battle, in which the army of Ung-khan was de 
feated and destroyed by Jengiz-khan; and although the name is not to 
be found in the Jesuits map, its situation is nearly identified by P. 
Gaubil s informing us that the battle was fought in the space between 
the rivers Tula and Kerlon, whose sources approximate about the forty- 
eighth or forty-ninth degree of latitude. It was also in this tract, on the 
northern border of the desert, that the Kaldan or chief of the Eluts was 
defeated by the forces of the emperor Rang- hi, in the year 1696. I am 
strongly inclined to believe that the name of Tenduk, which Petis de la 
Croix has confounded with Tangut, is no other than Tungus; as we find 
in the maps, the tribes of the Tungusi inhabiting this region, and parti 
cularly between the Amur river and Baikal lake. Adelung, indeed, 
remarks that in their language the names of the domesticated animals 
are the same as in that of the Mungals, from whom they received them; 
which is a proof of their ancient proximity and intercourse. 

8 See Appendix I. 

Gog and Magog 141 

Christian, as has been said, the government of the country is 
in the hands of Christians. Amongst the inhabitants, how 
ever, there are both worshippers of idols and followers of the 
law of Mahomet. 1 There is likewise a class of people known 
by the appellation of Argon, 2 because they are produced from 
a mixture of two races, namely, those natives of Tenduk who 
are idolaters, and the Mahometans. The men of this country 
are fairer complexioned and better looking than those in the 
other countries of which we have been speaking, and also 
better instructed, and more skilful traders. 



IN this province (of Tenduk) was the principal seat of govern 
ment of the sovereigns styled Prester John, when they ruled 
over the Tartars of this and the neighbouring countries, and 
which their successors occupy to the present hour. George, 
above-mentioned, is the fourth in descent from Prester John, 
of whose family he is regarded as the head. There are two 
regions in which they exercise dominion. These in our part 
of the world are named Gog and Magog, but by the natives 
Ung and Mongul; in each of which there is a distinct race of 

1 Under the dynasty of the Seljuks of Persia, which commenced in the 
eleventh century, the Mahometans established themselves in consider 
able numbers at Kashgar, and from thence gradually spread over Tartary 
in their character of merchants. During the reigns of the Moghul or 
Mungal emperors of China, they appeared in a higher capacity, frequently 
commanding armies and presiding at tribunals. Renaudot labours to 
prove that their earliest connexion with that country was by sea; which 
may have been the case with respect to the Arabs, although not to the 
Mahometans of Persia and Khorasan. 

2 This name of Argon appears to be the Orgon of the Jesuits and 
Archon of Bell s map. The river so called runs through the part of Tar 
tary here described, and being joined by the Tula, their united streams 
fall into the Selinga. On the north-western bank of the Orgon we find, 
in modern times, the urga, or station of the grand lama of the Mungals. 
In nearly the same latitude, but more towards the east by several degrees, 
appears also another and more considerable river, named in the Jesuits 
map Ergone, or Argun, forming the boundary between the dominions of 
China and Russia in that quarter; near to which is a town or city called 

142 Travels of Marco Polo 

people. In Ung they are Gog, and in Mongul they are Tar 
tars. 1 Travelling seven days through this province, in an 
easterly direction, towards Cathay, you pass many towns 
inhabited by idolaters, as well as by Mahometans and Nes- 
torian Christians. 2 They gain their living by trade and manu 
factures, weaving, fine-gold tissues, ornamented with mother- 
of-pearl, named nascici, and silks of different textures and 
colours, not unlike those of Europe; together with a variety 
of woollen cloths. These people are all subjects of the grand 
khan. One of the towns, named Sindichin, is celebrated for 
the manufacture of all kinds of arms, and every article neces 
sary for the equipment of troops. In the mountainous part 
of the province there is a place called Idifa, in which is a rich 
mine of silver, from whence large quantities of that metal are 
obtained. 3 There are also plenty of birds and beasts. 

1 This passage, it must be confessed, is wholly unintelligible as it now 
stands, and we are to presume that the words of our author have been 
misunderstood and perverted, although it may be found impracticable 
to restore them to a consistent sense. His object apparently was to 
explain the distinction between the two races of which the subjects of 
Ungkhan consisted, viz. Mungals and Turkis or Turks, to whom, in latter 
times, the general name of Tartars or Tatars is exclusively applied: a 
distinction which, notwithstanding the marked diversity of language, is 
rendered obscure from the mixture of tribes under the same government ; 
for, in consequence of the splendid reputation acquired by the immediate 
dependants of Jengiz-khan, the various auxiliary tribes affected to con 
sider themselves as Mungals ; whilst, on the other hand, it is evident that 
the Chinese applied to them indiscriminately the appellation of Tata or 
Tartars. It may be observed with respect to the scriptural names of 
Gog and Magog, that they are here spoken of as being improperly given 
to these people by Europeans, and not as appellations known in the 
country. By the generality of Arabians and Persians, who pronounce 
the names Yajuj and Majuj, they are understood to belong to the in 
habitants of the mountainous region on the north-western side of the 
Caspian Sea, or ancient Scythians, against whose predatory incursions 
the strong rampart of Derbend, together with the line of works extending 
from it, and regarded as supernatural, were constructed at a very remote 
period. Other situations, however, have been assigned to this wandering 
and terrific description of people, by the oriental writers of the middle 
ages, some of whom place them in the northern part of Tartary. 

2 During the successive reigns of the Mungal emperors of China, many 
considerable towns were built in that part of Tartary which lies between 
the river Kerlon and the Chinese province of Pe-che-li; but they were 
afterwards destroyed, upon the expulsion of that dynasty by those of 
the Ming, whose object it was to deface every vestige of the power of 
their late masters. 

3 The name of Sindicin or Sindichin, which in the Basle edition is 
Sindacui, in the Italian epitomes Sindatoy, in the early Latin Sindatus, 
and which should perhaps be Sindi or Sinda-cheu, (the last syllable 
denoting the word " town,") is not to be traced in the Jesuits map, but 
may have belonged to one of the places destroyed by the Ming, as men 
tioned in the preceding note. Idifa, Idifu, or Idica, has equally eluded 
my research, although the circumstance of a silver mine in its neighbour- 

The City of Changanor 143 



LEAVING the city and province last mentioned, and travelling 
three days, you arrive at a city named Changa-nor, which 
signifies,, the " white lake." 1 At this place the grand khan has 
a great palace, which he is fond of visiting, because it is sur 
rounded with pieces of water and streams, the resort of many 
swans; and there is a fine plain, where are found in great 
numbers cranes, pheasants, partridges, and other birds. He 
derives the highest degree of amusement from sporting with 
gerfalcons and hawks, the game being here in vast abun 
dance. Of the cranes they reckon five species. 2 The first 
sort are entirely black as coals, and have long wings. The 

hood might have helped to point out its situation. Upon the whole, in 
deed, and particularly from the description of the manufactures said to 
flourish there, I am inclined to think that a transposition of matter (of 
which some indubitable examples will be hereafter observed) has taken 
place in this instance, and that the passage beginning with the words, 
" Travelling seven days through this province," to the conclusion of the 
chapter, has no proper connexion either with what precedes it, respecting 
the country of the Mungals, or what follows respecting Changanor, but 
must have applied to a more civilized country, nearer to the borders of 

1 The Cianganor or Changanor of Ramusio, Cianiganiorum of the 
Basle edition, Cyagamorum of the older Latin, Cyangamor of the B.M. 
and Berlin manuscripts, and Cyagnuorum of the Italian epitomes, are 
obviously intended for the Tsahan-nor, Chahan-nor, or White lake of 
>the maps; and it is probable that the Changai mountains of Strahlen- 
berg, or Hangai-alin of the Jesuits, derive their appellation from the 
same quality, real or imaginary, of whiteness. In the Kalmuk-Mun- 
galian vocabulary of the former, the word for " white" is zagan, (pro 
bably a soft pronunciation of chagan,} and in the Mancheu dictionary of 
Langles it is changuien. 

2 These birds being termed gru in the Italian versions, and grus in the 
Latin, I have called them cranes in the English translation; but it may 
be doubted whether the heron (ardea), or the stork (cicoma), be not rather 
meant by our author s description of them. " On trouve," says the 
translator, or the commentator of Abu lghazi, " une grande quantite 
d oiseaux d une beaute particuliere dans les vastes plaines de la Grande 
Tartarie, et 1 oiseau dont il est parle en cet endroit pourroit bien estre 
une espece de heron, qu on trouve dans le pays des Moungales vers les 
frontieres de la Chine, et qui est tout blanc, excepte le bee, les ailes, et 
la queue, qu il a d un fort beau rouge. . . . Peut estre aussi que c est 
d une cicogne dont nostre auteur veut parler." Hist, geneal. desTatares, 
p. 205. This is the Cms Leucogeranus or Siberian crane of Pennant. 

144 Travels of Marco Polo 

second sort have wings still longer than the first, but are 
white, and the feathers of the wings are full of eyes, round like 
those of the peacock, but of a gold colour and very bright; 
the head is red and black, and well formed ; the neck is black 
and white, and the general appearance of the bird is extremely 
handsome. The third sort are of the size of ours [in Italy]. 
The fourth are small cranes, having the feathers prettily 
streaked with red and azure. The fifth are of a grey colour, 
with the head red and black, and are of a large size. 1 Nigh 
to this city is a valley frequented by great numbers of part 
ridges and quails, for whose food the grand khan causes millet, 
panicum, and other grains suitable to such birds, to be sown 
along the sides of it every season, and gives strict command 
that no person shall dare to reap the seed; in order that they 
may not be in want of nourishment. Many keepers, likewise, 
are stationed there for the preservation of the game, that it 
may not be taken or destroyed, as well as for the purpose of 
throwing the millet to the birds during the winter. So accus 
tomed are they to be thus fed, that upon the grain being 
scattered and the man s whistling, they immediately assemble 
from every quarter. The grand khan also directs that a number 
of small buildings be prepared for their shelter during the night; 
and, in consequence of these attentions, he always finds abun 
dant sport when he visits this country ; and even in the winter, 
at which season, on account of the severity of the cold, he does 
not reside there, he has camel-loads of the birds sent to him, 
wherever his court may happen to be at the time. 2 Leaving 
this place, we shall now direct our course three days journey 
towards the north-east. 

1 [The early Latin text has, " Quarta generatio sunt parvaB et habent 
ad aures pennas nigras. Quinta generatio est quia sunt omnes grigias 
et maxime, et habent caput nigrum et album."] 

2 Game in large quantities is brought from Tartary to Peking during 
the winter in a frozen state. Lettres edif. torn. xxii. p. 177. ed. 1781. 

The Khan s Palace at Shandu 145 



DEPARTING from the city last mentioned,, and proceeding 
three days journey in a north-easterly direction, you arrive at 
a city called Shandu, built by the grand khan Kublai, now 
reigning. 1 In this he caused a palace to be erected, of marble 
and other handsome stones, admirable as well for the elegance 
of its design as for the skill displayed in its execution. The 
halls and chambers are all gilt, and very handsome. It 
presents one front towards the interior of the city, and the 
other towards the wall ; and from each extremity of the build 
ing runs another wall to such an extent as to enclose sixteen 
miles in circuit of the adjoining plain, to which there is no 
access but through the palace. 2 Within the bounds of this 
royal park there are rich and beautiful meadows, watered by 
many rivulets, where a variety of animals of the deer and goat 
kind are pastured, to serve as food for the hawks and other 
birds employed in the chase, whose mews are also in the grounds. 
The number of these birds is upwards of two hundred; and the 

1 Shandu is the Chang-tou (Shangtu) of the Jesuits map, and by P. 
Couplet, in his Notes to the " Observations Chronologiques " of P. Gaubil, 
is spoken of as " Ville detruite; elle etoit dans le pals de Kartchin en 
Tartarie." Lat. 40 22 NN.E. of Peking. (P. 197.) In the year 1691 
it was thus spoken of by P. Gerbillon: Nous fimes encore quarante 
lys dans une plaine qui s appelle Cabaye, sur le bord d une petite riviere 
nominee Chantou, le long de laquelle etoit autrefois batie la ville de Chan- 
tou, ou les empereurs de la famille des Yuen tenoient leur cour durant 
Tete. On en voit encore les restes." (Du Halde, torn. iv. p. 258.) If 
the distance between Changa-nor and this place was only three days 
journey, the former could not have been on the northern side of the 
desert; but the numbers, from inattention in transcribing, are extremely 
incorrect, and the decimals may, in this instance, have been omitted. 

This forest," says Bell, speaking of the hunting-seat of the em 
peror Kang-hi, " is really a most delightful place; it is well stored with 
a great variety of game, and is of great extent, as will easily be conceived 
from the account I have given of our two days hunting. It is all en 
closed with a high wall of brick." Travels, vol. ii. p. 84. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

grand khan goes in person, at least once in the week, to inspect 
them. Frequently, when he rides about this enclosed forest, 
he has one or more small leopards carried on horseback, behind 
their keepers ; l and when he pleases to give direction for their 
being slipped, they instantly seize a stag, or goat, or fallow 
deer, which he gives to his hawks, and in this manner he amuses 
himself. In the centre of these grounds, where there is a 
beautiful grove of trees, he has built a royal pavilion, supported 
upon a colonnade of handsome pillars, gilt and varnished. 
Round each pillar a dragon, likewise gilt, entwines its tail, 
whilst its head sustains the projection of the roof, and its 
talons or claws are extended to the right and left along the 
entablature. 2 The roof is of bamboo cane, likewise gilt, and 
so well varnished that no wet can injure it. The bamboos 
used for this purpose are three palms in circumference and ten 
fathoms in length, and being cut at the joints, are split into 
two equal parts, so as to form gutters, and with these (laid 
concave and convex) the pavilion is covered; but to secure 
the roof against the effect of wind, each of the bamboos is tied 
at the ends to the frame. 3 The building is supported on every 
side (like a tent) by more than two hundred very strong silken 
cords, and otherwise, from the lightness of the materials, it 
would be liable to oversetting by the force of high winds. The 
whole is constructed with so much ingenuity of contrivance 
that all the parts may be taken asunder, removed, and again 
set up, at his majesty s pleasure. This spot he has selected 

1 This animal, if it be not the ounce, is the felis jubata or hunting 
leopard, much smaller in size than the common species. In Hindustan 
it is named the chita, and is employed by the native princes in the chase 
of the antelope. See an account of " the Manner of Hunting amongst 
the Princes of Hindostan," in the Asiatic Miscellany, vol. ii. p. 68, where 
this animal is called the cheetar or panther. 

8 It is well known that the dragon with five claws (instead of four, as 
in the ordinary representations) is the imperial symbol, and forms a con 
spicuous part of every article of dress, piece of furniture, or ornament 
connected with the court of China. 

8 The mode of covering here described is well known in the eastern 
islands, and is mentioned in the following passage of the History of 
Sumatra: " There is another kind of house, erected mostly for a tem 
porary purpose, the roof of which is flat, and is covered in a very un 
common, simple, and ingenious manner. Large straight bamboos are 
cut of a length sufficient to He across the house, and being split exactly in 
two, and the joints knocked out, a first layer of them is disposed in close 
order, with the inner or hollow sides up ; after which a second layer, with 
the outer or convex sides up, is placed upon the others in such manner 
that each of the convex falls into the two contiguous concave pieces, 
covering their edges; the latter serving as gutters to carry off the water 
that falls upon the upper or convex layer." P. 58, third edition. 

The Sacrifice of Mares Milk 147 

for his recreation on account of the mild temperature and salu 
brity of the air, and he accordingly makes it his residence 
during three months of the year, namely, June, July, and 
August; and every year, on the twenty-eighth day of the 
moon, in the last of these months, it is his established custom 
to depart from thence, and proceed to an appointed place, in 
order to perform certain sacrifices, in the following manner. 
It is to be understood that his majesty keeps up a stud of 
about ten thousand horses and mares, which are white as 
snow; l and of the milk of these mares no person can pre 
sume to drink who is not of the family descended from Jengiz- 
khan, with the exception only of one other family, named 
Boriat, to whom that monarch gave the honourable privilege, 
in reward of valorous achievements in battle, performed in his 
own presence. 2 So great, indeed, is the respect shown to 
these horses that, even when they are at pasture in the royal 
meadows or forests, no one dares to place himself before them, 
or otherwise to impede their movements. The astrologers 
whom he entertains in his service, and who are deeply versed 
in the diabolical art of magic, having pronounced it to be his 
duty, annually, on the twenty-eighth day of the moon in 
August, to scatter in the wind the milk taken from these mares, 
as a libation to all the spirits and idols whom they adore, for 
the purpose of propitiating them and ensuring their protection 
of the people, male and female, of the cattle, the fowls, the 
grain and other fruits of the earth; on this account it is that 
his majesty adheres to the rule that has been mentioned, and 
on that particular day proceeds to the spot where, with his 
own hands, he is to make the offering of milk. On such occa 
sions these astrologers, or magicians as they may be termed, 
sometimes display their skill in a wonderful manner; for if 
it should happen that the sky becomes cloudy and threatens 
rain, they ascend the roof of the palace where the grand 
khan resides at the time, and by the force of their in 
cantations they prevent the rain from falling and stay the 

1 Establishments ol brood mares and stallions, on as great a scale, 
have been kept up by later emperors. The white colour does not now 
appear to be thought so essential as it was by the Mungal-Tartar em 

2 This family name is variously written Boriat, Horiach, Horiath, 
Orati, and Orari. It was no doubt the eminent Tartar family of which 
Malcolm speaks in his History of Persia, where he says: " The powerful 
tribe of Byat came originally from Tartary with Chinghiz-khan. They 
were long settled in Asia Minor, and a number of them fought in the army 
of Bajazet against Timour." Vol. ii. p. 218, note. 

i 4 8 

Travels ot Marco Pole 

tempest; so that whilst, in the surrounding country, storms 
of rain, wind, and thunder are experienced, the palace itself 
remains unaffected by the elements. 1 Those who operate 
miracles of this nature are persons of Tebeth and Kesmir, 
two classes of idolaters more profoundly skilled in the 
art of magic than the natives of any other country. 
They persuaded the vulgar that these works are effected 
through the sanctity of their own lives and the merits of their 
penances; and presuming upon the reputation thus acquired, 
they exhibit themselves in a filthy and indecent state, regard 
less as well of what they owe to their character as of the respect 
due to those in whose presence they appear. They suffer their 
faces to continue always uncleansed by washing and their 
hair uncombed, living altogether in a squalid style. 2 They 
are addicted, moreover, to this beastly and horrible practice, 
that when any culprit is condemned to death, they carry off 
the body, dress it on the fire, and devour it; but of persons 
who die a natural death they do not eat the bodies. 3 Besides 
the appellations before mentioned, by which they are dis 
tinguished from each other, they are likewise termed bdksi, 
which applies to their religious sect or order, as we should say, 
friars, preachers, or minors. 4 So expert are they in their 
infernal art, they may be said to perform whatever they will; 
and one instance shall be given, although it may be thought 

1 That magical arts were commonly resorted to by the princes of the 
family of Jengiz-khan appears from other accounts. 

1 These appear to have been Indian yogis or goseins, who are known 
to travel by the way of Kashmir into Tibet, and from thence, frequently, 
to the northern parts of Tartary. Their naked and squalid appearance 
has been the subject of description at all periods, as well as their extra 
ordinary penances or mortifications. 

3 The agreement between the account here given of this barbarous 
practice, and what is known of the Batta people of Sumatra, who devour 
the bodies of condemned criminals, is so striking, that a doubt can 
scarcely be entertained of a transposition having taken place in the order 
of our author s notes, by which a remark upon the peculiar manners of 
the latter, amongst whom he resided several months, has been detached 
from its proper place, and introduced into this chapter, where savages 
of a different description, and to whom cannibalism has not been im 
puted by any traveller since his time, are the subject. 

* We find in the Ayin Akbari of Abu lfazel, a confirmation of what is 
here asserted to be the meaning of the term baksi, bakshi, or, according 
to the Bengal pronunciation of Persian, bukshi, which is not furnished 
by the dictionaries. Under the head of the " Doctrine of Boodh," he 
says: " The learned among the Persians and Arabians call the priests of 
this religion Bukshee, and in Tibbet they are stiled Lama." (Vol. iii. 
p. 157.) Klaproth, in his " Abhandlung liber die Sprache und Schrift 
der Uiguren," observes that the word Bakschi is of Mongol origin, and 
is the usual appellation of the sages (gelehrten) of that country, who are 
by the Chinese named Schu (Shu). P. 77, note. 

Feats of the Magicians 149 

to exceed the bounds of credibility. When the grand khan 
sits at meals, in his hall of state (as shall be more particularly 
described in the following book), the table which is placed in 
the centre is elevated to the height of about eight cubits, and at 
a distance from it stands a large buffet, where all the drinking 
vessels are arranged. Now, by means of their supernatural 
art, they cause the flagons of wine, milk, or any other beverage, 
to fill the cups spontaneously, without being touched by the 
attendants, and the cups to move through the air the distance 
of ten spaces until they reach the hand of the grand khan. As 
he empties them, they return to the place from whence they 
came; and this is done in the presence of such persons as are 
invited by his majesty to witness the performance. 1 These 
baksis, when the festival days of their idols draw near, go to 
the palace of the grand khan, and thus address him: " Sire, 
be it known to your majesty, that if the honours of a holocaust 
are not paid to our deities, they will in their anger afflict us 
with bad seasons, with blight to our grain, pestilence to our 
cattle, and with other plagues. On this account we supplicate 
your majesty to grant us a certain number of sheep with black 
heads, 2 together with so many pounds of incense and of 
lignum aloes, in order that we may be enabled to perform the 
customary rites with due solemnity." Their words, however, 
are not spoken immediately to the grand khan, but to certain 
great officers, by whom the communication is made to him. 
Upon receiving it he never fails to comply with the whole of 

1 What is here ascribed to sorcery appears to have been nothing more 
than a pantomimical trick, and capable of being effected by no extra 
ordinary artifice. The emperor, we may presume, and perhaps also 
such of his confidential servants as had the honour of sitting near his 
elevated table, might be aware of the machinery employed; but the 
guests in general, and even the courtiers or mandarins of inferior rank, 
amongst whom was probably our author s place, might be deceived; 
their distance being such as to render imperceptible the wires by which 
the vessels were made to move, as if spontaneously, from one part of 
the hall of entertainment to the other. The peculiar fancy of these Tar 
tar princes for having their liquor (an object always of the first import 
ance) served in a manner calculated to raise surprise, is well exemplified 
in the travels of Rubruquis, who describes a curious piece of machinery 
constructed by a French artist, for conveying into the hall a variety of 
liquors, which issued from the mouths of silver lions. 

A peculiar species of sheep," says Turner, " seems indigenous to 
this climate, marked almost invariably by black heads and legs. They 
are of a small size, their wool is soft, and their flesh, almost the only 
animal food eaten in Tibet, is, in my opinion, the finest mutton in the 
world." (P. 302.) A similar breed is noticed by Hamilton on the 
coast of Yemen. Their sheep," he says, " are all white, with jet black 
heads, and small ears, their bodies large, and their flesh delicate.". 
Vol. i. p. 15. 

150 Travels of Marco Polo 

their request; and accordingly, when the day arrives, they 
sacrifice the sheep, and by pouring out the liquor in which 
the meat has been seethed, in the presence of their idols, per 
form the ceremony of worship. In this country there are 
great monasteries and abbeys, so extensive indeed that they 
might pass for small cities, some of them containing as many 
as two thousand monks, who are devoted to the service of their 
divinities, according to the established religious customs of the 
people. 1 These are clad in a better style of dress than the 
other inhabitants; they shave their heads and their beards, 2 
and celebrate the festivals of their idols with the utmost pos 
sible solemnity, having bands of vocal music and burning 
tapers. Some of this class are allowed to take wives. 3 There 
is likewise another religious order, the members of which are 
named sensim, who observe strict abstinence and lead very 
austere lives, having no other food than a kind of pollard, 
which they steep in warm water until the farinaceous part is 
separated from the bran, and in that state they eat it. This 
sect pay adoration to fire, and are considered by the others as 

1 The extensive monasteries in the province of Tangut have been 
spoken of before. A particular description of them will be found in the 
Alphabetum Tibetanum, and an enumeration in the Memoires concern, 
les Chinois, torn. xiv. p. 219, under the head of " Miao ou temples qui 
sont dans le pays des Si-fan," and commencing with that of Pou-ta-la, 
near the city of La-sa. There were many likewise in more northern 
parts of Tartary ; but these have been mostly destroyed in the wars that 
took place upon the extinction of the Mongal dynasty of China, not only 
between the new dynasty and the adherents of their predecessors, but 
amongst the independent tribes themselves, under the denomination of 
Eluths and Kalkas. With respect to the number of persons here said 
to be contained in these monastic establishments, it is entirely consistent 
with the accounts given by our modern travellers. Turner informs us 
that there were two thousand five hundred gylongs (or monks) in one of 
the monasteries which he visited. 

2 All accounts we have of these people speak of the attention paid to 
uniformity of dress amongst the persons devoted to the offices of religion 
and the monastic life, according to their several classes and ranks; as 
well as of the colours (yellow and red) affected by the two great sects 
into which the lamas are divided. The tonsure also is mentioned by 
different authorities. " The priests of this religion," says the Ayin 
Akbari, " shave their heads, and wear dresses of leather [evidently a 
mistake for the word yellow] and red cloth." (Vol. iii. p. 158.) Rubru- 
quis also, describing the Tartars of Kara-korum, observes that, All 
their priests had their heads and beards shaven quite over, and they are 
clad in saffron-coloured garments." -Purchas, vol. iii. p. 21. 

8 Although celibacy appears to be usually enjoined to the priests of 
Buddha, Shakia-muni, or Fo, it is not universal. Ce mandarin," says 
P. Magalhanes, " apres s en estre inform^ avec soin, me dit que dans la 
seule ville et cour de Pe-kim il y avoit 10,668 bonzes non mariez, et que 
nous appellons ho-xam (ho-shang), et 5,022 mariez." Nouv. Relat. 
de la Chine, p. 57. 

Religious Orders Among the Tartars i 5 i 

schismatics, not worshipping idols as they do. 1 There is a 
material difference between them in regard to the rules of 
their orders, and these last described never marry in any 
instance. They shave their heads and beards like the others, 
and wear hempen garments of a black or dull colour; but even 
if the material were silk, the colour would be the same. 2 They 
sleep upon coarse mats, and suffer greater hardships in their 
mode of living than any people in the world. 3 We shall now 
quit this subject, and proceed to speak of the great and wonder 
ful acts of the supreme lord and emperor, Kubla i-kaan. 

1 The word sensim or sensin seems to be intended for the Two Chinese 
monosyllables seng-sin, the former of which (according to De Guignes) 
signifies bonzes or priests of Fo. In Morrison s dictionary, under the 
word sang, we read: " Priests of the sect of Fuh, who are otherwise 
called sha-mun : also denominated shang-jin. There are several other 
names by which they are designated; ho-shang is that most commonly 
given to them." From the account of their diet we are led to conclude 
them Hindu devotees, and perhaps Sannyasis, who amongst a people 
where the religion of Buddha prevailed would be regarded as schismatics. 

2 The circumstance of the dark- coloured dresses (nere e biave) worn 
by this class, seems to have been mentioned in order to distinguish them 
from the ho-shang and lamas, who are always clad in yellow or red, 
according to their sect, and adds to the probability that they were not 

* The austerities to which, under the name of penances, the Indian 
yogis, sannyasis, goseins, and other denominations of ascetics, expose 
themselves, have been already adverted to. Their pilgrimages often 
lead them to the borders of China and to the remote provinces of Tartary. 




i. IN this Book it is our design to treat of all the great and 
admirable achievements of the grand khan now reigning, who 
is styled Kublai-kaan; the latter word implying in our lan 
guage lord of lords/ and with much propriety added to his 
name; for in respect to number of subjects, extent of terri 
tory, and amount of revenue, he surpasses every sovereign 
that has heretofore been or that now is in the world; nor 
has any other been served with such implicit obedience by 
those whom he governs. This will so evidently appear in the 
course of our work, as to satisfy every one of the truth of our 

Kublai -kaan, it is to be understood, is the lineal and legiti 
mate descendant of Jengiz-khan the first emperor, and the 
rightful sovereign of the Tartars. He is the sixth grand khan, 2 
and began his reign in the year I256. 3 He obtained the 
sovereignty by his consummate valour, his virtues, and his 
prudence, in opposition to the designs of his brothers, sup 
ported by many of the great officers and members of his own 
family. But the succession appertained to him of right. 4 

1 Kaaii was the title which Jengiz directed his son and successor Oktai 
to assume, and which is explained in dictionaries, as it is in our text, by 
the terms khan of khans, or lord of lords. 

8 He was properly the fifth, not the sixth emperor. Our author seems 
to have included Batu in his enumeration, who was the eldest of the 
grandsons of Jengiz, but waived his right to the sovereignty in favour 
of Mangu his nephew. 

3 As emperor of China the reign of Kublai is not understood to have 
commenced till 1280, when the conquest of the southern provinces was 
completed, and the ancient dynasty destroyed. 

4 The right of succession, according to our ideas, would have been in 
one of the sons of Mangu, of whom the eldest was named Asutai; but 
amongst the Mungals this hereditary claim was modified by circum- 


The Grand Khan Kublai i 5 3 

It is forty-two years since he began to reign to the present 
year, 1288, and he is fully eighty-five years of age. Previously 
to his ascending the throne he had served as a volunteer in 
the army, and endeavoured to take a share in every enter 
prise. Not only was he brave and daring in action, but in 
point of judgment and military skill he was considered to be 
the most able and successful commander that ever led the 
Tartars to battle. From that period, however, he ceased to 
take the field in person, 1 and entrusted the conduct of expedi 
tions to his sons and his captains; excepting in one instance, 
the occasion of which was as follows. A certain chief named 
Nayan, who, although only thirty years of age, was kinsman 
to Kublai , 2 had succeeded to the dominion of many cities and 
provinces, which enabled him to bring into the field an army 
of four hundred thousand horse. His predecessors, however, 
had been vassals of the grand khan. 3 Actuated by youthful 
vanity upon finding himself at the head of so great a force, he 
formed, in the year 1286, the design of throwing off his alle 
giance, and usurping the sovereignty. With this view he 

stances, and the dying sovereign generally nominated that person of the 
family who was best qualified, from his age and talents, to hold the 
reins of government, or rather to command the armies; an appointment 
which was, however, to be subject to the approval or rejection of the 
chiefs of tribes, in a grand assembly or diet, termed Kurultai. Accord 
ingly we find that whilst the succession was for a time disputed between 
Kublai and his younger brother, the sons of Mangu, instead of asserting 
their own rights, took part with him who eventually proved to be the 
weaker of their uncles. 

1 That is, from the period of his becoming emperor of China, in 1280, 
or, what is more to the point, subsequently to our author s arrival at 
his court; for in 1262 he proceeded in person against his brother Artig- 

2 In the Latin version the relationship of Nayan to Kublai is expressed 
by the word patruus, in the Italian epitomes by avo, and in Ramusio s 
text by barba, which the dictionaries inform us is the Lombard term for 
zio, or uncle; but as he was the younger person by thirty or forty years 
(according to what is here stated), it is nearly impossible that he could 
have stood in that degree of consanguinity, and it is reasonable to sup 
pose that the original phrase must have been misunderstood by the 
translators. With more plausibility he might have been called his 
nephew; but the actual relationship was much more distant, their 
common ancestor being the father of Jengiz-khan. Kublai was the 
grandson of that monarch, and Nayan the great-grandson of Belgatai 
his brother. Consequently they were second cousins once removed, 
according to the English mode of expression. 

8 The dominions which this prince inherited from his ancestor, the 
fourth brother of Jengiz-khan, lay in eastern Tartary; as those of Kaidu 
comprehended generally the country westward from the great desert and 
Altai mountains, towards Kashgar. These chiefs were bound, of course, 
to do homage to the person who was considered as the head of the family] 
and are therefore said to have been the vassals of Kublai. 

i 54 Travels of Marco Polo 

privately despatched messengers to Kaidu, another powerful 
chief, whose territories lay towards the greater Turkey, 1 and 
who, although a nephew of the grand khan, was in rebellion 
against him, and bore him determined ill-will, proceeding 
from the apprehension of punishment for former offences. To 
Kaidu, therefore, the propositions made by Nayan were highly 
satisfactory, and he accordingly promised to bring to his 
assistance an army of a hundred thousand horse. Both 
princes immediately began to assemble their forces, but it 
could not be effected so secretly as not to come to the know 
ledge of Kublai , who upon hearing of their preparations lost 
no time in occupying all the passes leading to the countries of 
Nayan and of Kaidu, in order to prevent them from having 
any information respecting the measures he was himself 
taking. He then gave orders for collecting, with the utmost 
celerity, the whole of the troops stationed within ten days 
march of the city of Kambalu. These amounted to three 
hundred and sixty thousand horse, to which was added a 
body of a hundred thousand foot, consisting of those who 
were usually about his person, and principally his falconers 
and domestic servants. 2 In the course of twenty days they 
were all in readiness. Had he assembled the armies kept up 
for the constant protection of the different provinces of Cathay, 
it must necessarily have required thirty or forty days; in 
which time the enemy would have gained information of his 
arrangements, and been enabled to effect their junction, and to 
occupy such strong positions as would best suit with their 
designs. His object was, by promptitude, which is ever the 
companion of victory, to anticipate the preparations of Nayan, 
and by falling upon him whilst single, destroy his power with 
more certainty and effect than after he should have been 
joined by Kaidu. 

It may be proper here to observe, whilst on the subject of the 
armies of the grand khan, that in every province of Cathay and 
of Manji, 3 as well as in other parts of his dominions, there were 

1 Turkistan, or the country possessed by the Turki tribes, to whom 
the name of Tartars or Tatars has of late been exclusively applied. 

a The employment of troops of this description (corresponding to the 
bostangis, or gardeners of the Turkish seraglio), marks the already per 
ceptible decline of that vigorous system which enabled the Tartars to 
subdue their civilized and luxurious neighbours, but which inevitably 
became relaxed from inactivity and indulgence in the manners of the 

3 By these we are to understand Northern and Southern China, sepa 
rated by the great river Hoang-ho on the eastern, and by the southern 
limits of Shen-si on the western side. 

Insurrection of Nayan 155 

many disloyal and seditious persons, who at all times were dis 
posed to break out in rebellion against their sovereign/ and 
on this account it became necessary to keep armies in such of 
the provinces as contained large cities and an extensive popu 
lation, which are stationed at the distance of four or five miles 
from those cities, and can enter them at their pleasure. These 
armies the grand khan makes it a practice to change every 
second year, and the same with respect to the officers who 
command them. By means of such precautions the people are 
kept in quiet subjection, and no movement nor innovation of 
any kind can be attempted. The troops are maintained not 
only from the pay they receive out of the imperial revenues 
of the province, but also from the cattle and their milk, which 
belong to them individually, and which they send into the cities 
for sale, furnishing themselves from thence, in return, with 
those articles of which they stand in need. 2 In this manner 
they are distributed over the country, in various places, to the 
distance of thirty, forty, and even sixty days journey. If 
even the half of these corps were to be collected in one place, 
the statement of their number would appear marvellous and 
scarcely entitled to belief. 

2. Having formed his army in the manner above described, 
the grand khan proceeded towards the territory of Nayan, and 
by forced marches, continued day and night, he reached it at 
the expiration of twenty-five days. So prudently, at the same 
time, was the expedition managed, that neither that prince 
himself nor any of his dependents were aware of it, all the 
roads being guarded in such a manner that no persons who 
attempted to pass could escape being made prisoners. Upon 
arriving at a certain range of hills, on the other side of which 
was the plain where Nayan s army lay encamped, Kublai 
halted his troops, and allowed them two days of rest. During 
this interval he called upon his astrologers to ascertain by 
virtue of their art, and to declare in presence of the whole army, 

1 Not only a great part of the population, especially of Southern China, 
must have been loyally attached to the ancient race of their kings, but 
also there were in all the western provinces numerous partisans of the 
rival branches of Kublai s own family, who were eager to seize all oppor 
tunities of fomenting disturbance. 

8 These details, so probable in themselves, are not, I believe, to be 
found in any other original writer. It must have been the policy of 
Kublai to keep his Tartarian troops as distinct as possible from the 
Chinese, and therefore, instead of quartering them in the great towns, 
they were encamped at the distance of some miles from them, and the 
semblance at least of their former pastoral life was preserved, whilst 
they were surrounded with their herds and flocks. 

Travels of Marco Polo 

to which side the victory would incline. They pronounced 
that it would fall to the lot of Kublai. It has ever been the 
practice of the grand khans to have recourse to divination for 
the purpose of inspiriting their men. Confident therefore of 
success, they ascended the hill with alacrity the next morning, 
and presented themselves before the army of Nayan, which 
they found negligently posted, without advanced parties or 
scouts, whilst the chief himself was asleep in his tent, accom 
panied by one of his wives. Upon awaking, he hastened to 
form his troops in the best manner that circumstances would 
allow, lamenting that his junction with Kaidu had not been 
sooner effected. Kublai took his station in a large wooden 
castle, borne on the backs of four elephants, 1 whose bodies were 
protected with coverings of thick leather hardened by fire, over 
which were housings of cloth of gold. The castle contained 
many cross-bow-men and archers, and on the top of it was 
hoisted the imperial standard, adorned with representations 
of the sun and moon. His army, which consisted of thirty 
battalions of horse, each battalion containing ten thousand 
men, armed with bows, he disposed in three grand divisions; 
and those which formed the left and right wings he extended 
in such a manner as to out-flank the army of Nayan. In 
front of each battalion of horse were placed five hundred 
infantry, armed with short lances and swords, who, whenever 
the cavalry made a show of flight, were practised to mount 
behind the riders and accompany them, alighting again when 
they returned to the charge, and killing with their lances the 
horses of the enemy. As soon as the order of battle was 
arranged, an infinite number of wind instruments of various 
kinds were sounded, and these were succeeded by songs, 
according to the custom of the Tartars before they engage in 
fight, which commences upon the signal given by the cymbals 
and drums, and there was such a beating of the cymbals and 
drums, and such singing, that it was wonderful to hear. This 
signal, by the orders of the grand khan, was first given to the 

1 Elephants have never been commonly used in China, either for war 
or parade; but during the operations carried on by Kublai (whilst acting 
as hi? brother s lieutenant) in the province of Yunnan, bordering on Ava 
and other countries where these noble animals abound, he must have 
become well acquainted with the uses to which they might be rendered 
subservient; and it appears in a subsequent chapter, that only three 
years before the period of which we are speaking, he had taken a number 
of elephants from the king of Mien or Ava (whom his generals defeated 
in 1283), and employed them in his armies. This consistency of cir 
cumstances is not unworthy of observation. 

The Great Battle with Nay an 157 

right and left wings; and then a fierce and bloody conflict 
began. The air was instantly filled with a cloud of arrows that 
poured down on every side, and vast numbers of men and 
horses were seen to fall to the ground. The loud cries and 
shouts of the men, together with the noise of the horses and the 
weapons, were such as to inspire terror into those who heard 
them. When their arrows had been discharged, the hostile 
parties engaged in close combat with their lances, swords, and 
maces shod with iron; and such was the slaughter, and so 
large were the heaps of the carcases of men, and more especially 
of horses, on the field, that it became impossible for the one 
party to advance upon the other. Thus the fortune of the day 
remained for a long time undecided, and victory wavered 
between the contending parties from morning until noon; for 
so zealous was the devotion of Nayan s people to the cause of 
their master, who was most liberal and indulgent towards 
them, that they were all ready to meet death rather than turn 
their backs to the enemy. At length, however, Nayan, per 
ceiving that he was nearly surrounded, attempted to save him 
self by flight, but was presently made prisoner, and conducted 
to the presence of Kublai, who gave orders for his being put to 
death. 1 This was carried into execution by enclosing him 
between two carpets, which were violently shaken until the 
spirit had departed from the body ; the motive for this peculiar 
sentence being, that the sun and the air should not witness the 
shedding of the blood of one who belonged to the imperial 
family. 2 Those of his troops which survived the battle came 
to make their submission, and swear allegiance to Kublai. 
They were inhabitants of the four noble provinces of Chorza, 
Karli, Barskol, and Sitingui. 3 

Nayan, who had privately undergone the ceremony of 
baptism, but never made open profession of Christianity, 
thought proper, on this occasion, to bear the sign of the cross 

1 The particulars of the combat, as given in the text, do not well agree 
with the account furnished by De Guignes; but this is not surprising 
when we consider how rarely two descriptions of any great battle are 
found to correspond. It may be remarked that Marco Polo seems to 
have been present. 

2 This affectation of avoiding to shed blood in the act of depriving of life 
a person of high rank, is observable in many instances, and may perhaps 
have given occasion to the use of the bow-string in the Turkish seraglio. 

3 It is not possible to identify in any modern map or account of Northern 
Tartary the names of these tribes, which may have long ceased to exist 
under the same denominations. The difficulty is further increased by 
the extraordinary corruption of the words in different versions and 

i 5 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

in his banners, and he had in his army a vast number of Chris 
tians, who were left amongst the slain. When the Jews x and 
the Saracens perceived that the banner of the cross was over 
thrown, they taunted the Christian inhabitants with it, saying, 
Behold the state to which your (vaunted) banners, and those 
who followed them, are reduced ! On account of these 
derisions the Christians were compelled to lay their complaints 
before the grand khan, who ordered the former to appear 
before him, and sharply rebuked them. " If the Cross of 
Christ," he said, " has not proved advantageous to the party 
of Nayan, the effect has been consistent with reason and 
justice, inasmuch as he was a rebel and a traitor to his lord, 
and to such wretches it could not afford its protection. Let 
none therefore presume to charge with injustice the God of 
the Christians, who is Himself the perfection of goodness and 
of justice." 



THE grand khan, having obtained this signal victory, returned 
with great pomp and triumph to the capital city of Kanbalu. 
This took place in the month of November, and he continued 
to reside there during the months of February and March, in 
which latter was our festival of Easter. Being aware that this 
was one of our principal solemnities, he commanded all the 
Christians to attend him, and to bring with them their Book, 
which contains the four Gospels of the Evangelists. After 
causing it to be repeatedly perfumed with incense, in a cere 
monious manner, he devoutly kissed it, and directed that the 
same should be done by all his nobles who were present. This 
was his usual practice upon each of the principal Christian 

1 This is the first occasion on which our author speaks of Jews in 
Tartary or China. Of their existence in the latter country, at an early 
period, there is no room to doubt. In the relations of the Mahometan 
travellers of the ninth century, we are told that in the massacre which 
took place at the city of Canfu, when taken by a rebel leader after an 
obstinate siege, many of that race perished. 

The Christians in Tartary 159 

festivals, such as Easter and Christmas; and he observed the 
same at the festivals of the Saracens, Jews, and idolaters. 1 
Upon beinglisked his motive for this conduct, he said : u There 
are four great Prophets who are reverenced and worshipped 
by the different classes of mankind. The Christians regard 
Jesus Christ as their divinity; the Saracens, Mahomet; the 
Jews, Moses; 2 and the idolaters, Sogomombar-kan, 3 the most 
eminent amongst their idols. I do honour and show respect to 
all the four, and invoke to my aid whichever amongst them is 
in truth supreme in heaven." But from the manner in which 
his majesty acted towards them, it is evident that he regarded 
the faith of the Christians as the truest and the best; nothing, 
as he observed, being enjoined to its professors that was not 
replete with virtue and holiness. By no means, however, 
would he permit them to bear the cross before them in their 
processions, because upon it so exalted a personage as Christ 
had been scourged and (ignominiously) put to death. It may 
perhaps be asked by some, why, if he showed such a preference 
to the faith of Christ, he did not conform to it, and become a 
Christian ? His reason for not so doing, he assigned to Nicolo 
and Maffio Polo, when, upon the occasion of his sending them 
as his ambassadors to the Pope, they ventured to address a 
few words to him on the subject of Christianity. " Where 
fore," he said, " should I become a Christian? You your 
selves must perceive that the Christians of these countries are 
ignorant, inefficient persons, who do not possess the faculty of 
performing anything (miraculous); whereas you see that the 
idolaters can do whatever they will. When I sit at table the 
cups that were in the middle of the hall come to me filled with 
wine and other beverage, spontaneously and without being 
touched by human hand, and I drink from them. They have 

1 This conduct towards the professors of the several systems of faith 
is perfectly consistent with the character of Kublai, in which policy was 
the leading feature. It was his object to keep in good humour all classes 
of his subjects, and especially those of the capital or about the court, by 
indulging them in the liberty of following unmolested their own religious 
tenets, and by flattering each with the idea of possessing his special 
protection. Many of the highest offices, both civil and military, were 
held by Mahometans. 

8 Neither do those who profess the Mussulman faith regard Mahomet 
as a divinity, nor do the Jews so regard Moses; but it is not to be ex 
pected that a Tartar emperor should make very accurate theological 

3 This word, probably much corrupted by transcribers, must be in 
tended for one of the numerous titles of Buddha or Fo, who, amongst 
the Mungals, as in India also, is commonly termed Shakia-muni, and in 
Siam, Sommona-kodom. 

160 Travels of Marco Polo 

the power of controlling bad weather and obliging it to retire to 
any quarter of the heavens, with many other wonderful gifts of 
that nature. You are witnesses that their idols have the 
faculty of speech, and predict to them whatever is required. 
Should I become a convert to the faith of Christ, and profess 
myself a Christian, the nobles of my court and other persons 
who do not incline to that religion will ask me what sufficient 
motives have caused me to receive baptism, and to embrace 
Christianity. < What extraordinary powers/ they will say, 
< what miracles have been displayed by its ministers ? Where 
as the idolaters declare that what they exhibit is performed 
through their own sanctity, and the influence of their idols/ 
To this I shall not know what answer to make, and I shall be 
considered by them as labouring under a grievous error; 
whilst the idolaters, who by means of their profound art can 
effect such wonders, may without difficulty compass my death. 
But return you to your pontiff, and request of him, in my 
name, to send hither a hundred persons well skilled in your 
law, who being confronted with the idolaters shall have power 
to coerce them, and showing that they themselves are endowed 
with similar art, but which they refrain from exercising, 
because it is derived from the agency of evil spirits, shall com 
pel them to desist from practices of such a nature in their 
presence. When I am witness of this, I shall place them and 
their religion under an interdict, and shall allow myself to be 
baptized. Following my example, all my nobility will then in 
like manner receive baptism, and this will be imitated by my 
subjects in general; so that the Christians of these parts will 
exceed in number those who inhabit your own country/ 
From this discourse it must be evident that if the Pope had 
sent out persons duly qualified to preach the gospel, the grand 
khan would have embraced Christianity, for which, it is cer 
tainly known, he had a strong predilection. But, to return 
to our subject, we shall now speak of the rewards and honours 
he bestows on such as distinguish themselves by their valour 
in battle. 

Military Rewards 161 



THE grand khan appoints twelve of the most intelligent 
amongst his nobles, whose duty it is to make themselves 
acquainted with the conduct of the officers and men of his 
army, particularly upon expeditions and in battles, and to 
present their reports to him, 1 and he, upon being apprised of 
their respective merits, advances them in his service, raising 
those who commanded an hundred men to the command of a 
thousand, and presenting many with vessels of silver, as well 
as the customary tablets or warrants of command and of 
government. 2 The tablets given to those commanding a 
hundred men are of silver; to those commanding a thousand, 
of gold or of silver gilt; and those who command ten thousand 
receive tablets of gold, bearing the head of a lion; 3 the former 
being of the weight of a hundred and twenty saggi* and these 
with the lion s head, two hundred and twenty. At the top of 
the inscription on the tablet is a sentence to this effect: " By 
the power and might of the great God, and through the grace 

1 In the establishment of a board of this nature it is probable that 
Kubla i only conformed to the system of the former or ancient Chinese 
government, which placed the various concerns of the state under the 
management of distinct tribunals named pu, to each of which another 
word, expressive of the particular nature of the department, is prefixed. 
" La quatrieme cour souveraine," says Du Halde, " se nomme ping-poit, 
c est-a-dire, le tribunal des armes. La milice de tout rempire est de son 
ressort. C est de ce tribunal que dependent les omciers de guerre g6ne- 
raux et particuliers," etc. (Tom. ii. p. 24.) Under a warlike monarch, 
who owed the empire of China to his sword, it might well have been con 
sidered as the first in consequence, although now inferior in rank to three 

2 See note J , p. 16, where some account is given of these tablets or letters 
patent, called tchi-kouei, according to the French orthography. 

3 The Chinese representation of a lion, like the singa of the Hindu 
mythology, from whence it seems to have been borrowed, is a grotesque 
figure, extremely unlike the real animal. An engraving of it will be 
found in Staunton s Account of Lord Macartney s Embassy, (vol. ii. p. 
311;) and the figure is not uncommon in our porcelain collections. Oc 
casion will be taken hereafter to show that where the lion is spoken of 
by our author as a living animal, and an object of hunting sport, the 
tiger must be understood. 

4 The saggio of Venice being equal to the sixth part of an ounce, these 
consequently weighed twenty ounces, and the others in proportion up 
to fifty ounces. 

162 Travels of Marco Polo 

which he vouchsafes to our empire, be the name of the kaan 
blessed; and let all such as disobey (what is herein directed) 
suffer death and be utterly destroyed." The officers who hold 
these tablets have privileges attached to them, and in the in 
scription is specified what are the duties and the powers of 
their respective commands. He who is at the head of a hun 
dred thousand men, or the commander in chief of a grand army, 
has a golden tablet weighing three hundred saggi, with the 
sentence above mentioned, and at the bottom is engraved the 
figure of a lion, together with representations of the sun and 
moon. He exercises also the privileges of his high command, 
as set forth in this magnificent tablet. Whenever he rides in 
public, an umbrella is carried over his head, denoting the rank 
and authority he holds ; * and when he is seated, it is always 
upon a silver chair. The grand khan confers likewise upon 
certain of his nobles tablets on which are represented figures of 
the gerfalcon, 2 in virtue of which they are authorized to take 
with them as their guard of honour the whole army of any 
great prince. They can also make use of the horses of the im 
perial stud at their pleasure, and can appropriate the horses 
of any officers inferior to themselves in rank. 



KUBLAI, who is styled grand khan, or lord of lords, is of the 
middle stature, that is, neither tall nor short; his limbs are 
well formed, and in his whole figure there is a just proportion. 
His complexion is fair, and occasionally suffused with red, 
like the bright tint of the rose, which adds much grace to his 
countenance. His eyes are black and handsome, his nose is 
well shaped and prominent. He has four wives of the first 

1 In many parts of the East, the parasol or umbrella with a long 
handle, borne by an attendant, is a mark of high distinction, and even 
denotes sovereignty when of a particular colour. Du Halde, in describ 
ing the parade of a tsong-tu or viceroy of a province, enumerates amongst 
the insignia " un parasol de soye jaune a triple etage." 

- Amongst the emblematical ornaments worn by great officers, the 
eagle is mentioned by Du Halde, but it may probably have been intended 
tor the gerfalcon, a bird more prized as the instrument of royal sport. 

The Harem of the Grand Khan 163 

rank, who are esteemed legitimate/ and the eldest born son of 
any one of these succeeds to the empire, upon the decease of 
the grand khan. 2 They bear equally the title of empress, and 
have their separate courts. None of them have fewer than 
three hundred young female attendants of great beauty, to 
gether with a multitude of youths as pages, and other eunuchs, 
as well as ladies of the bedchamber; so that the number of 
persons belonging to each of their respective courts amounts 
to ten thousand. 3 When his majesty is desirous of the com 
pany of one of his empresses, he either sends for her, or goes 
himself to her palace. Besides these, he has many concu 
bines provided for his use, from a province of Tartary named 
Ungut, having a city of the same name, the inhabitants of 
which are distinguished for beauty of features and fairness of 
complexion. 4 Thither the grand khan sends his officers every 
second year, or oftener, as it may happen to be his pleasure, 

1 " II avoit epouse plusieurs femmes," says De Guignes, " dont cinq 
portoient le titre d imperatrices; " but it is probable that not more than 
four of these (if so many) were contemporaneous ; and the legitimacy of 
the latter number, which does not appear to be sanctioned by the ancient 
Chinese institutions, may have been suggested by the Mahometan usage. 
Three queens are mentioned by P. Magalhanes as belonging to the 
emperor Kang-hi, and the establishment of the late emperor Kien Long 
consisted, in like manner, of one female with the rank of empress, two 
queens of the second order, and six of the third. 

2 According to the laws of China, as we are told by Du Halde, the 
eldest son (or son of the superior wife), though he may have a preferable 
claim, has not an indefeasible right to the succession. Amongst the 
predecessors of Kublai, also, in the Moghul empire, we have instances of 
the hereditary claim being set aside, and Oktaii himself was named grand 
khan by his father, in preference to Jagatai , the eldest son. Our author 
must therefore be understood to say, that the son first born to any one 
of the four empresses was considered as the presumptive heir; and this 
in fact having been the case with respect to the eldest son of Kublai, 
whose succession, had he outlived his father, was undoubted, the pre 
vailing sentiment of the court might naturally be mistaken for the estab 
lished custom of the empire. 

This number appears excessive, but we are not to measure the extra 
vagancies of enormous and uncontrolled power by any standard of our own 
ideas. Perhaps besides the establishment of female attendants and of 
eunuchs, old and young, a numerous military guard of honour might be 
attached to the court of each of the empresses. The early Venice edition, 
however, states the number much lower: " Ciascuna de queste quatro 
regine hanno in sua corte piu de quatro millia persone infra homini e 
donne." P. Martini speaks of numerous females, below the rank of con 
cubines, for the service of the palace. 

1 The country here named Ungut is in other versions called Origiach, 
Origiathe, and Ungrac. There is little doubt of its being intended for 
that of the Ighurs, Eighurs, or Uighurs, who in the time of Jengiz-khan 
possessed the countries of Tnrfan. and Hami or Kamil, and were always 
considered as superior, in respect both of person and acquirements, tc 
the other nations of Tartary. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

who collect for him, to the number of four or five hundred, 01 
more, of the handsomest of the young women, according to the 
estimation of beauty communicated to them in their instruc 
tions. The mode of their appreciation is as follows. Upon 
the arrival of these commissioners, they give orders for assem 
bling all the young women of the province, and appoint quali 
fied persons to examine them, who, upon careful inspection of 
each of them separately, that is to say, of the hair, the coun 
tenance, the eyebrows, the mouth, the lips, and other features, 
as well as the symmetry of these with each other, estimate 
their value at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, or twenty, or more 
carats, according to the greater or less degree of beauty. 1 The 
number required by the grand khan, at the rates, perhaps, of 
twenty or twenty-one carats, to which their commission was 
limited, is then selected from the rest, and they are con 
veyed to his court. Upon their arrival in his presence, he 
causes a new examination to be made by a different set of 
inspectors, and from amongst them a further selection takes 
place, when thirty or forty are retained for his own chamber 
at a higher valuation. These, in the first instance, are com 
mitted separately to the care of the wives of certain of the 
nobles, whose duty it is to observe them attentively during the 
course of the night, in order to ascertain that they have not 
arty concealed imperfections, that they sleep tranquilly, do not 
snore, have sweet breath, and are free from unpleasant scent 
in any part of the body. Having undergone this rigorous 
scrutiny, they are divided into parties of five, one of which 
parties attends during three days and three nights, in his 
majesty s interior apartment, where they are to perform every 
service that is required of them, and he does with them as 
he likes. When this term is completed, they are relieved by 
another party, and in this manner successively, until the whole 
number have taken their turn; when the first five recom 
mence their attendance. But whilst the one party officiates 
in the inner chamber, another is stationed in the outer apart 
ment adjoining; in order that if his majesty should have occa- 

1 If by this gold weight is meant the carat consisting of four grains, 
the estimated value of beauty must have been very low in that age and 
country, as twenty carats or eighty grains of gold, at four pounds sterling 
the ounce, amount to no more than thirteen shillings and fourpence. 
But the probability is that our author s words expressed some Chinese 
weight (the tdel, perhaps, or the mace, which latter would bring it to 
about eight or nine pounds sterling), and the foreign term he employed 
may have been inaccurately rendered by carato. 

Kublai s Children 165 

sion for anything, such as drink or victuals, the former may 
signify his commands to the latter, by whom the article re 
quired is immediately procured : and thus the duty of waiting 
upon his majesty s person is exclusively performed by these 
young females. 1 The remainder of them, whose value had 
been estimated at an inferior rate, are assigned to the different 
lords of the household; under whom they are instructed in 
cookery, in dressmaking, and other suitable works; and upon 
any person belonging to the court expressing an inclination to 
take a wife, the grand khan bestows upon him one of these 
damsels, with a handsome portion. In this manner he provides 
for them all amongst his nobility. It may be asked whether 
the people of the province do not feel themselves aggrieved in 
having their daughters thus forcibly taken from them by the 
sovereign? Certainly not; but, on the contrary, they regard 
it as a favour and an honour done to them ; and those who are 
the fathers of handsome children feel highly gratified by his 
condescending to make choice of their daughters. " If," say 
they, " my daughter is born under an auspicious planet and to 
good fortune, his majesty can best fulfil her destinies, by 
matching her nobly; which it would not be in my power to 
do." If, on the other hand, the daughter misconducts herself, 
or any mischance befalls her (by which she becomes disquali 
fied), the father attributes the disappointment to the malign 
influence of her stars. 



THE grand khan has had twenty-two sons by his four legiti 
mate wives, the eldest of whom, named Chingis, 2 was designed 

1 It would appear from hence that Kublai , although he adopted the 
Chinese custom of employing eunuchs as the attendants or guards of his 
females, did not so far forget his original manly habits as to admit them 
near his own person. 

2 Gaubil and De Guignes name this prince Tchingkin and Tchenkin, 
and such may perhaps have been the manner in which it was pronounced 
by the Chinese, who terminate all their monosyllables either with a vowel 
or a nasal; but the name as found in most of the versions of our author 
is apparently more correct, being that of the great ancestor of the family 

i 66 Travels of Marco Polo 

to inherit the dignity of grand khan, with the government of 
the empire; and this nomination was confirmed to him during 
the life-time of his father. It was not, however, his fate to 
survive him; but leaving a son, whose name is Themur, he, 
as the representative of his father, is to succeed to the 
dominion. 1 The disposition of this prince is good, and he is 
endowed with wisdom and valour; of the latter he has given 
proofs in several successful battles. Besides these, his majesty 
has twenty-five sons by his concubines, all of them brave 
soldiers, having been continually employed in the military 
profession. These he has placed in the rank of nobles. Of his 
legitimate sons, seven are at the head of extensive provinces 
and kingdoms, 2 which they govern with wisdom and prudence, 
as might be expected of the children of one whose great quali 
ties have not been surpassed, in the general estimation, by any 
person of the Tartar race. 



THE grand khan usually resides during three months of the 
year, namely, December, January, and February, in the great 
city of Kanbalu, situated towards the north-eastern extremity 
of the province of Cathay ; 3 and here, on the southern side of 
the new city, is the site of his vast palace, the form and dimen 
sions of which are as follows. In the first place is a square 
enclosed with a wall and deep ditch; each side of the square 
being eight miles in length, 4 and having at an equal distance 

and in the early Venice epitome it is expressly said: " So primo hebbe 
nome Chinchis chan per amor de Chinchis." 

1 The name here written Themur, and in other versions Temur, is 
evidently the well-known Tartar name of Timur, although the great 
conqueror so called did not acquire his celebrity until a century after. 

2 De Guignes enumerates ten of his sons, born of five empresses, and 
mentions the provinces of Shensi, Sechuen, and Tibet as being governed 
by Mangkola, the third son. P. Magalhanes notices the custom of 
sending the princes of the royal family into the provinces with the title 
of kings; but in the reign of Kang-hi their authority was merely nominal. 

3 Relatively to the vast extent of the whole empire at that period, 
Cathay, or Northern China, is termed by our author a province, although 
it contained the capital of that empire, and the seat of government. 

4 These dimensions, as applicable to a palace, even for an emperor of 
China, appear at first view to be extravagant ; but the seeming difficulty 
arises from the misapplication of a term, in calling that a palace which 
was, in fact, the enclosure of a royal park and encampment. 

The Imperial Palace of Kanbalu i6y 

from each extremity an entrance-gate, for the concourse oi 
people resorting thither from all quarters. Within this en 
closure there is, on the four sides, an open space one mile in 
breadth, where the troops are stationed ; l and this is bounded 
by a second wall, enclosing a square of six miles, 2 having three 
gates on the south side, and three on the north, the middle 
portal of each being larger than the other two, and always 
kept shut, excepting on the occasions of the emperor s entrance 
or departure. Those on each side always remain open for the 
use of common passengers. 3 In the middle of each division of 
these walls is a handsome and spacious building, and conse 
quently within the enclosure there are eight such buildings, in 
which are deposited the royal military stores; one building 
being appropriated to the reception of each class of stores. 
Thus, for instance, the bridles, saddles, stirrups, and other 
furniture serving for the equipment of cavalry, occupy one 
storehouse; the bows, strings, quivers, arrows, and other 
articles belonging to archery, occupy another; cuirasses, corse 
lets, and other armour formed of leather, a third storehouse; 
and so of the rest. Within this walled enclosure there is still 
another, of great thickness, and its height is full twenty-five 
feet. The battlements or crenated parapets are all white. 
This also forms a square four miles in extent, each side being 
one mile, and it has six gates, disposed like those of the former 
enclosure. 4 It contains in like manner eight large buildings, 

1 The area allotted to the troops upon this plain would be twenty-eight 
square miles. Their number was, of course, very great, and being chiefly 
cavalry, the barracks or sheds for their accommodation would necessarily 
occupy a vast range. In the early part of the last century, the cavalry 
stationed in and about Peking was reckoned at 80,000. Supposing it 
to have been about 112,000 in the days of Kublai, this would allow only 
a square mile for 4,000 horse. 

2 As this second enclosure not only contained the royal arsenals, eight 
in number, for every description of military store, but formed also a park 
for deer, there is nothing remarkable in its extent. It is not easy, how 
ever, to reconcile its position in respect to the city with some of the 
circumstances here mentioned; but we must suppose that the interior 
enclosure (afterwards described), which contained the palace properly 
so called, was situated towards the northern side of this park, and was 
at the same time contiguous to the southern wall of the city. 

3 The custom of reserving particular gates for the exclusive use of the 
emperor is still observed. 

4 To this last enclosure it is that the appellation of the Palace should 
be restricted ; and when we read the description of the Meidan of Ispahan, 
or of the Escurial with its twenty-two courts, we shall not deem the area 
of a square mile any extraordinary space to be occupied by the various 
buildings required for such an establishment as that of Kublai . It is at 
the same time to be remarked that there is a striking agreement between 
the measure here stated and that assigned to the modern palace in the 
descriptions we have from the Jesuits. 

1 68 Travels of Marco Polo 

similarly arranged, which are appropriated to the wardrobe of 
the emperor. 1 The spaces between the one wall and the other 
are ornamented with many handsome trees, and contain 
meadows in which are kept various kinds of beasts, such as 
stags, the animals that yield the musk, roe-bucks, fallow-deer, 
and others of the same class. Every interval between the 
walls, not occupied by buildings, is stocked in this manner. 
The pastures have abundant herbage. The roads across them 
being raised three feet above their level, and paved, no mud 
collects upon them, nor rain-water settles, but on the con 
trary runs off, and contributes to improve the vegetation. 
Within these walls, which constitute the boundary of four 
miles, stands the palace of the grand khan, the most extensive 
that has ever yet been known. It reaches from the northern 
to the southern wall, leaving only a vacant space (or court), 
where persons of rank and the military guards pass and repass. 
It has no upper floor, but the roof is very lofty. 2 The paved 
foundation or platform on which it stands is raised ten spans 
above the level of the ground, and a wall of marble, two paces 
wide, is built on all sides, to the level of this pavement, within 
the line of which the palace is erected; so that the wall, ex 
tending beyond the ground plan of the building, and encom 
passing the whole, serves as a terrace, where those who walk on 
it are visible from without. Along the exterior edge of the 
wall is a handsome balustrade, with pillars, which the people 
are allowed to approach. 3 The sides of the great halls and the 

1 It is well known to have been the practice of Eastern monarchs, from 
the earliest ages, to deliver changes of raiment to those whom they 
meant to distinguish by their favour. The Persian term khileU is gener 
ally applied to these vestments, which consist of pelisses in the northern 
parts of Asia, and of dresses of cloth, silk, or rnuslin, in the temperate 
and warmer climates. We read of vast numbers of them being dis 
tributed on the occasion of great victories, or the dismissal of important 
embassies; and this may account for the bulk of the wardrobes or 
buildings for what are here termed the paramenti of the emperor, which 
may also include the regalia carried in their splendid processions. 

2 It will be seen in the plates accompanying the accounts of various 
embassies to Peking, that although the flooring of the palaces is elevated 
from the ground, they consist of but a single story. The height of the 
ornamented roofs is a striking feature in the architecture of these people. 

3 The height of the terrace is said, in Ramusio s text, to be died palmi, 
or about seven feet; but in the epitomes it is dot brazza e mezo, or about 
twice that elevation; and this accords best with modern descriptions. 
All the accounts of missionaries and travellers serve to show that, in 
point of structure, materials, and style of embellishment, there has 
existed a perfect resemblance between the buildings of Kublai, as described 
by our author, and those of Kang-hi and Kien-long, in the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries. 

The Imperial Palace of Kanbalu 169 

apartments are ornamented with dragons in carved work and 
gilt, figures of warriors, of birds, and of beasts, with represen 
tations of battles. The inside of the roof is contrived in such 
a manner that nothing besides gilding and painting presents 
itself to the eye. 1 On each of the four sides of the palace 
there is a grand flight of marble steps, by which you ascend 
from the level of the ground to the wall of marble which 
surrounds the building, and which constitute the approach to 
the palace itself. The grand hall is extremely long and wide, 
and admits of dinners being there served to great multitudes 
of people. The palace contains a number of separate cham 
bers, all highly beautiful, and so admirably disposed that it 
seems impossible to suggest any improvement to the system 
of their arrangement. The exterior of the roof is adorned 
with a variety of colours, red, green, azure, and violet, and 
the sort of covering is so strong as to last for many years. 2 
The glazing of the windows is so well wrought and so delicate 
as to have the transparency of crystal. 3 In the rear of the 
body of the palace there are large buildings containing several 
apartments, where is deposited the private property of the 
monarch, or his treasure in gold and silver bullion, precious 
stones, and pearls, and also his vessels of gold and silver plate. 4 

1 " Cette salle," adds Du Halde, " a environ cent trente pieds de 
longueur, et est presque quarree. Le lambris est tout en sculpture 
vernisse de verd, et charge de dragons dorez: les colonnes qui soutien- 
nent le toit en dedans sont de six a sept pieds de circonference par le 
bas : elles sont incrustees d une espece de pate enduite d un vernis rouge." 
Tom. i. p. 117. 

2 The roofs are invariably covered with baked tiles, which, for the 
principal buildings, have a vitrified glazing of a bright colour. Such as 
are used for the palaces at the present day are exclusively yellow; but 
this etiquette may not have been so strictly adhered to under the dynasty 
of the Yuen. " Le tout est convert de tuiles vernissees d un si beau 
jaune, que de loin elles ne paroissent gueres moins eclatantes, que si elles 
etoient dorees." Du Halde, torn. i. p. 116. 

3 Ramusio employs the word vitreate, which I have translated glazing, 
although there is no reason to suppose that glass was used for windows 
in China at that period. The meaning may be, that the pellucid sub 
stance employed for glazing (perhaps talc or laminae of shells) was so 
delicately wrought (cost ben fatte e cost sottilmente) as to have nearly the 
transparency of crystal. " Les fenetres des maisons," says De Guignes, 
" sont garnies avec des coquilles minces et assez transparentes, ou avec 
du papier." (Tom. ii. p. 178.) Staunton mentions that the windows 
of some of the yachts or barges had glass panes, but the manufacture 
was probably European. 

4 In the modern palace, the buildings for this purpose are described as 
being (less appropriately) round the court, in front of the great hall of 
audience; but we ought not to b*e surprised at any variation with respect 
to the arrangement of these buildings, when we learn that the whole ol 
the palace has been repeatedly destroyed by fire 

170 Travels of Marco Polo 

Here are likewise the apartments of his wives and concu 
bines; and in this retired situation he despatches business 
with convenience,, being free from every kind of interrup 
tion. On the other side of the grand palace, and opposite 
to that in which the emperor resides, is another palace, in 
every respect similar, appropriated to the residence of Chingis ; 
his eldest son, at whose court are observed all the ceremonials 
belonging to that of his father, as the prince who is to succeed 
to the government of the empire. 1 Not far from the palace, 
on the northern side, and about a bow-shot distance from the 
surrounding wall, is an artificial mount of earth, the height of 
which is full a hundred paces, and the circuit at the base about 
a mile. . It is clothed with the most beautiful evergreen trees; 
for whenever his majesty receives information of a handsome 
tree growing in any place, he causes it to be dug up, with all its 
roots and the earth about them, and however large and heavy 
it may be, he has it transported by means of elephants to this 
mount, and adds it to the verdant collection. From this per 
petual verdure it has acquired the appellation of the Green 
Mount. On its summit is erected an ornamental pavilion, 
which is likewise entirely green. The view of this altogether,- 
the mount itself, the trees, and the building, form a delightful 
and at the same time a wonderful scene. In the northern 
quarter also, and equally within the precincts of the city, there 
is a large and deep excavation, judiciously formed, the earth 
from which supplied the material for raising the mount. 2 It 
is furnished with water by a small rivulet, and has the appear 
ance of a fish-pond, but its use is for watering the cattle. The 
stream passing from thence along an aqueduct, at the foot of 
the Green Mount, proceeds to fill another great and very deep 
excavation formed between the private palace of the emperor 
and that of his son Chingis ; and the earth from hence equally 

1 " A 1 est de la meme cour est un autre palais, habite par le prince 
heritier, lorsqu il y en a un de declare." (De L isle, Descr. de la Ville 
de Peking, p, 16.) It will not escape the observation of the reader that, 
in a previous page, our author noticed the untimely death of this prince, 
(see pp. 165, 166,) who, notwithstanding, is here mentioned as a living 
person. This is obviously to be accounted for from the circumstance of 
the work being composed, not from recollection merely, but from notes 
made at different periods, amongst which a description of the palaces 
might have been one of the earliest. Kublai also, the event of whose 
death is related in the course of the returning journey, is spoken of 
throughout the work as the emperor actually reigning. 

2 This artificial hill exists at the present day, and retains its original 
name of King-shan, or the Green Mountain; but it would seem, from 
modern relations, that four others of inferior size have since been added. 

The City of Tai-du 171 

served to increase the elevation of the mount. In this lattei 
basin there is great store and variety of fish, from which the 
table of his majesty is supplied with any quantity that may 
be wanted. The stream discharges itself at the opposite ex 
tremity of the piece of water, and precautions are taken to 
prevent the escape of the fish by placing gratings of copper or 
iron at the places of its entrance and exit. It is stocked also 
with swans and other aquatic birds. From the one palace to 
the other there is a communication by means of a bridge 
thrown across the water. Such is the description of this great 
palace. We shall now speak of the situation and circum 
stances of the city of Taidu. 



THE city of Kanbalu is situated near a large river in the pro 
vince of Cathay, and was in ancient times eminently magnifi 
cent and royal. The name itself implies : the city of the 
sovereign;" 1 but his majesty having imbibed an opinion 
from the astrologers, that it was destined to become rebellious 

1 The name of this celebrated city, which our author writes Cambalu 
(for Canbalu, the m being substituted for n at the end of a syllable, in 
the old Italian, as well as in the Portuguese orthography), is by the 
Arabians and Persians written Khan-balik and Khan-baligh, signifying, 
in one of the dialects of Tartary, the " city of the khan or sovereign." 
This terminating appellative is not uncommon, as we find it in Kabaligh 
and Bish-baligh, cities of Turkistan; in Ordu-baligh, one of the names 
of Kara-korum; and in Mu-baligh, or the " city of desolation," a name 
given to Bamian, in the territory of Balkh, upon the occasion of its 
destruction by Jengiz-khan. With respect to the particular situation 
of the city, it is said, in the words of Ramusio, to have been " sopra 
un gran fiuine," but in the Latin version, " juxta magnum fluvium," 
which affords more latitude. By this river must be understood the 
Pe-ho, which is navigable for loaded vessels up to Tong-cheu, within 
twelve miles of the capital; but in the higher part of its course it seems 
to approximate nearer. Our knowledge of the country that surrounds 
Pe-king is, however, extremely imperfect; nor do the different maps 
accord with respect to the number or course of the streams that, coming 
from the neighbouring mountains of Tartary, appear to unite at or above 
Torig-cheu. It should be observed, also, that the old city of Yen-king, 
or Khan-balig, might have stood some miles nearer to the Pe-ho than 
the site of the more modern city of Peking. 

i J2 Travels of Marco Polo 

to his authority, resolved upon the measure of building another 
capital, upon the opposite side of the river, where stand the 
palaces just described: so that the new and the old cities are 
separated from each other only by the stream that runs 
between them. 1 The new-built city received the name of 
Tai-du, 2 and all the Cathaians, that is, all those of the inhabi 
tants who were natives of the province of Cathay, were com 
pelled to evacuate the ancient city, and to take up their abode 
in the new. Some of the inhabitants, however, of whose 
loyalty he did not entertain suspicion, were suffered to remain, 
especially because the latter, although of the dimensions that 
shall presently be described, was not capable of containing 
the same number as the former, which was of vast extent. 3 
This new city is of a form perfectly square, and twenty- 

1 This would seem to imply a removal of the capital to a different side 
of the Pe-ho, or larger river just mentioned; but it may be thought more 
probable that our author here speaks only of the rivulet which at the 
present day passes between what are denominated the Chinese and the 
Tartar cities, over which (however insignificant the stream) there is a 
handsome bridge of communication. Martini, in his " Atlas Sinensis," 
distinguishes two streams as contributing to supply the city with water. 

2 The name of Tai-du (more correctly written Ta-tu) signifies the 
" great court," and was the Chinese appellation for the new city, which 
the Tartars, and the western people in general, continued to name Khan- 
baligh. A doubt may be entertained whether the city of Yen-king, 
which Kubla i, from motives of superstition or of policy, abandoned, 
occupied the site of that now called the ancient or Chinese city, which 
is separated from the other only by a rivulet, and by the wall of the 
latter. But there is evidence of a positive kind of their being the same; 
for Yong-lo, the rebuilder of Peking, after it had been nearly destroyed 
in the preceding wars, erected within the bounds of what was equally in 
his time denominated the old city, and which could be no other than 
that depopulated by Kublai a century and a half before, two remarkable 
temples, one of them dedicated to the Heavens and the other to the 
Earth, which temples are to be found inDu Halde s and De Lisle s plates, 
and exist in the Chinese city at the present day. All the works of this 
great monarch, the third of the dynasty by which the Mungals were 
driven out, and who sat on the throne at the period of Shah Rokh s 
embassy, were begun about the year 1406, and completed about 1421. 

* In the " Memoires concernant les Chinois," we find the following 
account of the extent of its walls at different periods: " Sous le Kin 
(the dynasty overturned by Jengiz-khan) dont il fut aussi la capitale, il 
eut soixante-quinze It de tour, ou sept lieues et demie. Les Yuen qui 
le nommerent d abord la capitale du milieu, puis la grande capitale, ne 
lui donnerent que six lieues de tour et onze portes, lorsqu ils en reparerent 
les ruines en 1274. Le fondateur de la dynastie des Ming rasa deux de 
ces portes du cote du Midi pour le degrader; et Yong-lo, qui en rebatit 
les murailles en 1409, ne leur donna que quatre lieues de tour: c est leur 
mesure d aujourd hui, etant restees les memes. Quant a la ville Chinoise, 
ce fut Chin-tsong, de la dynastie precedente, qui en fit faire 1 enceinte en 
murs de terre Tan 1524. . . . Ce ne fut qu en 1564 qu elle obtint 1 honneur 
d etre incorporee a 1 ancienne ville, avec celui d avoir des murailles et 
des portes en briques." Tom. ii. p. 553. 

The City of Tai-du 173 

four miles in extent, each of its sides being neither more nor 
less than six miles. 1 It is enclosed with walls of earth, that 
at the base are about ten paces thick, but gradually diminish 
to the top, where the thickness is not more than three paces. 2 
In all parts the battlements are white. 3 The whole plan of 
the city was regularly laid out by line, and the streets in 
general are consequently so straight, that when a person 
ascends the wall over one of the gates, and looks right forward, 
he can see the gate opposite to him on the other side of the 
city. 4 In the public streets there are, on each side, booths 
and shops of every description. 5 All the allotments of ground 
upon which the habitations throughout the city were con 
structed are square, and exactly on a line with each other; 
each allotment being sufficiently spacious for handsome build 
ings, with corresponding courts and gardens. One of these 
was assigned to each head of a family; that is to say, such a 
person of such a tribe had one square allotted to him, and so of 
the rest. Afterwards the property passed from hand to hand. 

1 The square form prevails much amongst the cities and towns of 
China, wherever the nature of the ground and the course of the waters 
admit of it. This probably had its origin in the principles of castra- 
metation. The dimensions of the present Tartar city, according to De 
Lisle, are eleven li in the length from north to south, by nine in width 
from east to west, making forty li or fifteen miles in the whole extent. 
He adds, that in the time of Kublai the extent was sixty li, or twenty- 
two miles and a half, which does not differ materially from the measure 
ment in the text. It appears, therefore, that when Yong-lo rebuilt the 
walls of the ruined city, he contracted its limits, as it was natural for 
him to do. 

2 When it is said that the walls of the capital were of earth (di terra], 
I am inclined to think that terra cotta or bricks should be understood; 
as they were in general use amongst the Chinese from the earliest ages, 
and employed in the construction of the great wall. It may be proper 
to observe, that the distinguishing appellations of Tartar and Chinese 
cities did not take place under the Yuen, or Mungal dynasty, nor until 
the subjugation of the empire by the Tsing or present race of Manchu 
Tartars, who succeeded to the Ming or Chinese dynasty, and drove the 
native inhabitants from what is commonly termed the new or northern 
city into the old or southern, to make room for their Tartar followers. 

8 These battlements or merli must have been of solid materials (whether 
of white bricks or stone) ; which seems to be inconsistent with the sup 
position of a mud or turf rampart, unless there was at least a revetemcnt 
of masonry. The parapet," says Staunton, was deeply crenated, 
but had no regular embrazures." Vol. ii. p. 116. 

4 The straightness of the streets of Peking is apparent from De Lisle s 
plan, and corroborated by the accounts of all who have visited that city. 

* " In front of most of the houses in this main street," says Staunton, 
" were shops painted, gilt, and decorated like those of Tong-choo-foo, 
but in a grander style. Over some of them were broad terraces covered 
with shrubs and flowers. . . . Outside the shops, as well as within them, 
was displayed a variety of goods for sale." Vol. ii. p. 118. 

174 Travels of Marco Polo 

In this manner the whole interior of the city is disposed in 
squares, so as to resemble a chess-board, and planned out with 
a degree of precision and beauty impossible to describe. The 
wall of the city has twelve gates, three on each side of the 
square, and over each gate and compartment of the wall there! 
is a handsome building; so that on each side of the square 
there are five such buildings, containing large rooms, in which 
are disposed the arms of those who form the garrison of the 
city, 1 every gate being guarded by a thousand men. 2 It is not 
to be understood that such a force is stationed there in conse 
quence of the apprehension of danger from any hostile power 
whatever, but as a guard suitable to the honour and dignity of 
the sovereign. Yet it must be allowed that the declaration 
of the astrologers has excited in his mind a degree of suspicion 
with regard to the Cathaians. In the centre of the city there is 
a great bell suspended in a lofty building, which is sounded 
every night, and after the third stroke no person dares to be 
found in the streets, 3 unless upon some urgent occasion, such 
as to call assistance to a woman in labour, or a man attacked 
with sickness; and even in such necessary cases the person is 
required to carry a light. 4 

Withoutside of each of the gates is a suburb so wide that it 
reaches to and unites with those of the other nearest gates on 
both sides, and in length extends to the distance of three or 

1 The practice of erecting places of arms over gates subsists at the 
present day. 

2 This would seem to be the number that usually constitutes the guard 
of important gates in that country. " Having travelled about six 01 
eight miles," says John Bell, " we arrived at the famous wall of China. 
We entered at a great gate, which is shut every night, and always guarded 
by a thousand men." -Tom. i. p. 336. 

3 " II y a dans chaque ville," says Du Halde, " de grosses cloches, ou un 
tambour d une grandeur extraordinaire, qui servent a marquer les veilles 
de la nuit. Chaque veille est de deux heures: la premiere commence 
vers les huit heures du soir. Pendant les deux heures que dure cette 
premiere veille, on frappe de terns en terns un coup, ou sur la cloche, ou 
sur le tambour. Quand elle est finie, et que la seconde veille commence, 
on frappe deux coups taut qu elle dure : on en frappe trois a la troisieme, 
et ainsi de toutes les autres." (Tom. ii. p. 50.) To this third or mid 
night watch it is that our author alludes, when a treble stroke is given. 
Staunton also speaks of " the great fabric, of considerable height, which 
includes a bell of prodigious size and cylindric form, that, struck on the 
outside with a wooden mallet, emits a sound distinctly heard throughout 
the capital." Tom. ii. p. 122. 

4 " Les petites rues qui aboutissent aux grandes, ont des portes faites 
de treillis de bois, qui n ernpechent pas de voir ceux qui y marchent. . . . 
Les portes a treillis sont fermees la nuit par le corps de garde, et il ne la 
fait ouvrir que rarement, a gens connus, qui ont une lanterne a la main, 
et qui sortent pour une bonne raison, comme seroit celle d appeller un 
medecin." Du Halde, torn. i. p. 115. 

Suburbs of Tai-du 175 

four miles,, so that the number of inhabitants in these suburbs 
exceeds that of the city itself. Within each suburb there are, 
at intervals,, as far perhaps as a mile from the city, many 
hotels, or caravanserais, in which the merchants arriving from 
various parts take up their abode ; l and to each description 
of people a separate building is assigned, as we should say, 
one to the Lombards, another to the Germans, and a third to 
the French. The number of public women who prostitute 
themselves for money, reckoning those in the new city as well 
as those in the suburbs of the old, is twenty-five thousand. 2 
To each hundred and to each thousand of these there are 
superintending officers appointed, who are under the orders 
of a captain-general. The motive for placing them under 
such command is this : when ambassadors arrive charged with 
any business in which the interests of the grand khan are con 
cerned, it is customary to maintain them at his majesty s 
expense, and in order that they may be treated in the most 
honourable manner, the captain is ordered to furnish nightly 
to each individual of the embassy one of these courtezans, 
who is likewise to be changed every night, for which service, 
as it is considered in the light of a tribute they owe to the 
sovereign, they do not receive any remuneration. Guards, 
in parties of thirty or forty, continually patrol the streets 
during the course of the night, and make diligent search for 

1 These establishments for the accommodation of persons arriving 
from distant countries are incidentally noticed by Trigault (Histoire du 
Royaume de la Chine), who speaks of " le palais des estrangers " at 
Peking. It would seem, however, that they are now situated within 
the walls of the Chinese town, rather than in the suburbs. 

2 It is evident that there is here a mistake in Ramusio s text, as not 
only all the modern authorities agree in the fact of the public women 
being excluded from the city and confined to the suburbs, but it is ex 
pressly so stated in the other versions of our author. This regulation of 
police appears to have been equally enforced under later dynasties. 

II y a," says Du Halde, des femmes publiques et prostituees a la 
Chine comme ailleurs, mais comme ces sortes de personnes sont ordinaire- 
ment la cause de quelques desordres, il ne leur est pas permis de demeurer 
dans I enceiiite des villes: leur logement doit etre hors des murs; encore 
ne peuvent-elles pas avoir des maisons particulieres; elles logent plusieurs 
ensemble et souvent sous la conduite d un homme, qui est responsable 
du desordre, s il en arrivoit; au reste ces femmes libertines ne sont que 
tolerees, et on les regarde comme infames." (Tom. ii. p. 51.) Respect 
ing their numbers, under the reign of Kang-hi, the missionaries do not 
furnish us with any information. [In the early Latin text of Marco 
Polo, printed by the Paris Geographical Society, we here read: " Et 
istae mulieres qua3 f allunt pro pecunia sunt bene viginti millia ; et omnes 
habent satisfacere, propter multam gentem quae illuc concurrit de merca- 
toribus et aliis forensibus. Et sic potestis videre si in ista civitate est 
maxima gens, si mala3 mulieres sunt tot."] 


Travels of Marco Polo 

persons who may be from their homes at an unseasonable 
hour, that is, after the third stroke of the great bell. When 
any are met with under such circumstances, they immedi 
ately apprehend and confine them, and take them in the morn 
ing for examination before officers appointed for that purpose/ 
who, upon the proof of any delinquency, sentence them, 
according to the nature of the offence, to a severer or lighter 
infliction of the bastinade, which sometimes, however, occa 
sions their death. It is in this manner that crimes are usually 
punished amongst these people, from a disinclination to the 
shedding of blood, which their baksis or learned astrologers 
instruct them to avoid. 2 Having thus described the interior 
of the city of Tai-du, we shall now speak of the disposition to 
rebellion shown by its Cathaian inhabitants. 



PARTICULAR mention will hereafter be made of the establish 
ment of a council of twelve persons, who had the power of 
disposing, at their pleasure, of the lands, the governments, 
and everything belonging to the state. Amongst these was 
a Saracen, named Achmac, 3 a crafty and bold man, whose 
influence with the grand khan surpassed that of the other 
members. To such a degree was his master infatuated with 
him that he indulged him in every liberty. It was discovered, 
indeed, after his death, that he had by means of spells so 
fascinated his majesty as to oblige him to give ear and credit 

1 " Us ne permettent a personne de marcher la nuit, et ils interrogent 
meme ceux que Tempereur auroit envoye pour quelques affaires. Si 
leur reponse donne lieu au moindre soupcon, on les met en arret au corps 
de garde, . . . C est par ce bel ordre, qui s observe avec la derniere 
exactitude, que la paix, le silence, et la surete regnent dans toute la ville." 

-Du Halde, torn. i. p. 115. 

2 It has been already observed, that the priests of Buddha, who in 
Tibet are called lamas, are by the Arabians and Persians named bakshi ; 
and it is well known, that to abstain from shedding of blood, and parti 
cularly from bloody sacrifices, is the characteristic precept of that sect, 
in which, say the Brahmans, his disciples make virtue and religion to 


8 The name of this powerful and corrupt Arabian minister, whom the 
Chinese call Ahama, was doubtless Ahmed, the Achmet of our Turkish 

Treasons of Achmac 1 77 

to whatever he represented, and by these means was enabled to 
act in all matters according to his own arbitrary will. He 
gave away all the governments and public offices, pronounced 
judgment upon all offenders, and when he was disposed to 
sacrifice any man to whom he bore ill-will, he had only to go to 
the emperor and say to him, " Such a person has committed 
an offence against your majesty, and is deserving of death," 
when the emperor was accustomed to reply, Do as you judge 
best; " upon which he caused him to be immediately executed. 
So evident were the proofs of the authority he possessed, and 
of his majesty s implicit faith in his representations, that none 
had the hardiness to contradict him in any matter; nor was 
there a person, however high in rank or office, who did not 
stand in awe of him. If any one was accused by him of 
capital crime, however anxious he might be to exculpate him 
self, he had not the means of refuting the charge, because he 
could not procure an advocate, none daring to oppose the will 
of Achmac. By these means he occasioned many to die un 
justly. Besides this, there was no handsome female who 
became an object of his sensuality that he did not contrive to 
possess, taking her as a wife if she was unmarried, or other 
wise compelling her to yield to his desires. When he obtained 
information of any man having a beautiful daughter, he de 
spatched his emissaries to the father of the girl, with instruc 
tions to say to him: " What are your views with regard to 
this handsome daughter of yours? You cannot do better 
than give her in marriage to the Lord Deputy or Vicegerent 
(that is, to Achmac, for so they termed him, as implying that 
he was his majesty s representative). " We shall prevail upon 
him to appoint you to such a government or to such an office 
for three years." Thus tempted, he is prevailed upon to part 
with his child ; and the matter being so far arranged, Achmac 
repairs to the emperor and informs his majesty that a certain 
government is vacant, or that the period for which it is held 
will expire on such a day, and recommends the father as a 
person well qualified to perform the duties. To this his 

1 The term employed by Ramusio is Bailo, which particularly belonged 
to the person who represented, at Constantinople, the republic of Venice; 
not as ambassador (-when the appointment first took place), but as joint 
sovereign with the Latin emperor. It is not easy to find an equivalent 
term in our language ; nor does the Chinese title of Colao convey the idea 
intended to be given, of his inordinate power. The Arabs indeed might 
have styled him Khalifah, which signifies a substitute, deputy, or vice 

i 7 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

majesty gives his consent,, and the appointment is immedi 
ately carried into effect. By such means as these, either from 
the ambition of holding high offices or the apprehension of his 
power, he obtained the sacrifice of all the most beautiful young 
women, either under the denomination of wives, or as the 
slaves of his pleasure. He had sons to the number of twenty- 
five, who held the highest offices of the state, and some of them, 
availing themselves of the authority of their father, formed 
adulterous connexions, and committed many other unlawful 
and atrocious acts. Achmac had likewise accumulated great 
wealth, for every person who obtained an appointment found it 
necessary to make him a considerable present. 

During a period of twenty-two years he exercised this un 
controlled sway. 1 At length the natives of the country, 
that is, the Cathaians, no longer able to endure his multiplied 
acts of injustice or the flagrant wickedness committed against 
their families, held meetings in order to devise means of 
putting him to death and raising a rebellion against the 
government. Amongst the persons principally concerned in 
this plot was a Cathaian, named Chen-ku, a chief of six thou 
sand men, who, burning with resentment on account of the 
violation of his mother, his wife, and his daughter, proposed 
the measure to one of his countrymen, named Van-ku, who 
was at the head of ten thousand men, 2 and recommended its 
being carried into execution at the time when the grand khan, 
having completed his three months residence in Kanbalu, had 
departed for his palace of Shan-du, 3 and when his son Chingis 
also had retired to the place he was accustomed to visit at that 
season; because the charge of the city was then entrusted to 
Achmac, who communicated to his master whatever matters 
occurred during his absence, and received in return the signi 
fication of his pleasure. Van-ku and Chen-ku, having held 

1 His death took place in 1281, and his functions of Minister of Finance 
are first noticed by De Guignes (Histoire des Mogols de la Chine) in 1262; 
which includes a space of nineteen years: but he might have been in 
office some time before his extortions gave notoriety to his name. 

z I apprehend that these were not military commands, but that the 
civil jurisdiction of the country was established on a footing analogous 
to that of the army. At the present day every tenth Chinese inhabitant 
is responsible for the conduct (so far as the public peace is concerned) 
of nine of his neighbours. Such was also the principle of our English 
tithings and hundreds. These conspirators were evidently citizens, 
not soldiers. 

3 It will appear that, according to the Chinese authorities, this oppor 
tunity of the emperor s periodical absence was actually seized by the 

Conspiracy against Achmac 179 

this consultation together, imparted their designs to some of 
the leading persons of the Cathaians, and through them to their 
friends in many other cities. It was accordingly determined 
amongst them that, on a certain day, immediately upon their 
perceiving the signal of a fire, they should rise and put to death 
all those who wore beards; and should extend the signal to 
other places, in order that the same might be carried into effect 
throughout the country. The meaning of the distinction 
with regard to beards was this; that whereas the Cathaians 
themselves are naturally beardless, the Tartars, the Saracens, 
and the Christians wear beards. 1 It should be understood that 
the grand khan not having obtained the sovereignty of Cathay 
by any legal right, but only by force of arms, had no con 
fidence in the inhabitants, and therefore bestowed all the 
provincial governments and magistracies upon Tartars, Sara 
cens, Christians, and other foreigners, who belonged to his 
household, and in whom he could trust. In consequence of 
this, his government was universally hated by the natives, 
who found themselves treated as slaves by these Tartars, and 
still worse by the Saracens. 2 

Their plans being thus arranged, Van-ku and Chen-ku con 
trived to enter the palace at night, where the former, taking 
his place on one of the royal seats, caused the apartment to be 
lighted up, and sent a messenger to Achmac, who resided in 
the old city, requiring his immediate attendance upon Chingis, 
the emperor s son, who (he should say) had unexpectedly 
arrived that night. Achmac was much astonished at the in 
telligence, but, being greatly in awe of the prince, instantly 
obeyed. 3 Upon passing the gate of the (new) city, he met a 
Tartar officer named Kogatai, the commandant of the guard 
of twelve thousand men, who asked him whither he was going 
at that late hour. He replied that he was proceeding to wait 
upon Chingis, of whose arrival he had just heard. " How is 
it possible," said the officer, " that he can have arrived in so 
secret a manner, that I should not have been aware of his 

1 It is not in strictness a fact that the Chinese are naturally beardless; 
but, like the Malays, their beards are slight, arid the growth of them is 
discouraged, excepting in particular cases. 

2 " Les historiens Chinois," says P. Gaubil, " exagerent les defauts de 
Houpilie (Kubla i), et ne parlent gueres de ses vertus. Us lui reprochent 
beaucoup d entetement pour les superstitions et les enchantemens des 
Lamas, et ils se plaignent qu il a donne trop d autorite aux gens d Occi 
dent." Observ. Chronol. p. 201. 

3 The jealousy with which this prince regarded the conduct of the 
minister is rep^nfprP.y noticed. 

180 Travels of Marco Polo 

approach in time to order a party of his guards to attend 
him? In the meanwhile the two Cathaians felt assured 
that if they could but succeed in despatching Achmac they had 
nothing further to apprehend. Upon his entering the palace 
and seeing so many lights burning, he made his prostrations 
before Van-ku, supposing him to be the prince,, when Chen-ku, 
who stood there provided with a sword, severed his head from 
his body. Kogatai had stopped at the door, but upon observ 
ing what had taken place, exclaimed that there was treason 
going forward, and instantly let fly an arrow at Van-ku as he 
sat upon the throne, which slew him. He then called to his 
men, who seized Chen-ku, and despatched an order into the 
city, that every person found out of doors should be put to 
death. The Cathaians perceiving, however, that the Tartars 
had discovered the conspiracy, and being deprived of their 
leaders, one of whom was killed and the other a prisoner, kept 
within their houses, and were unable to make the signals to 
the other towns, as had been concerted. Kogatai immediately 
sent messengers to the grand khan, with a circumstantial 
relation of all that had passed, who, in return, directed him to 
make a diligent investigation of the treason, and to punish, 
according to the degree of their guilt, those whom he should 
find to have been concerned. On the following day, Kogatai 
examined all the Cathaians, and upon such as were principals 
in the conspiracy he inflicted capital punishment. The same 
was done with respect to the other cities that were known to 
have participated in the guilt. 

When the grand khan returned to Kanbalu, he was de 
sirous of knowing the causes of what had happened, and then 
learned that the infamous Achmac and seven of his sons (for 
all were not equally culpable) had committed those enormities 
which have been described. He gave orders for removing the 
treasure which had been accumulated by the deceased to an 
incredible amount, from the place of his residence in the old 
city to the new, where it was deposited in his own treasury. 

1 It must have been at the southern gate that the minister, on his way 
from the old city, was challenged by the officer commanding the guard, 
whilst the prince, had he arrived as was pretended, would have entered 
by the northern or the western gates, being those which opened towards 
the country palaces. The words of the latter must therefore be under 
stood as expressive only of surprise that he should not have had an im 
mediate report from the proper officer, and not as implying a direct con 
tradiction of the fact. From the sequel it appears that this officer as 
well as Ahama proceeded on the supposition of the prince being actually 
in the palace. 

The Guard of the Grand Khan 1 8 1 

He likewise directed that his body should be taken from the 
tomb, and thrown into the street to be torn in pieces by the 
dogs. 1 The sons who had followed the steps of their father 
in his iniquities he caused to be flayed alive. Reflecting also 
upon the principles of the accursed sect of the Saracens, 
which indulge them in the commission of every crime, and 
allow them to murder those who differ from them on points 
of faith, so that even the nefarious Achmac and his sons might 
have supposed themselves guiltless, he held them in contempt 
and abomination. Summoning, therefore, these people to 
his presence, he forbade them to continue many practices en 
joined to them by their law, 2 commanding that in future their 
marriages should be regulated by the custom of the Tartars, 
and that instead of the mode of killing animals for food, by 
cutting their throats, they should be obliged to open the belly. 
At the time that these events took place Marco Polo was on 
the spot. We shall now proceed to what relates to the estab 
lishment of the court kept by the grand khan. 



THE body-guard of the grand khan consists, as is well known 
to every one, of twelve thousand horseman, who are termed 
kasitan, which signifies " soldiers devoted to their master. 
It is not, however, from any apprehensions entertained by 
him that he is surrounded by this guard, but as matter of state. 
These twelve thousand men are commanded by four superior 
officers, each of whom is at the head of three thousand; and 
each three thousand does constant duty in the palace during 

1 " Kublai n ouvrit les yeux sur ia conduite d Ahama qu apres 1 exe- 
cution; il fit deterrer, mettre en pieces le corps du ministre Ahama, et 
iivra tous ses biens au pillage." (P. 174.) The manner in which our 
author states the wealth to have been disposed of, is more consistent 
both with the particular character of Kublai and with the general prac 
tice of the country than the giving it up to plunder. 

2 Interdicts of this nature, regarding only foreigners, the Chinese 
annals were not likely to notice, and we have no other authority than 
that of our author for this humiliation of the Mahometans. Many of 
them were subsequently employed in the higher ranks of the army. 

3 1 cannot trace this word (probably much corrupted) in any Mungal 
vocabulary, and dare not trust myself in the dubious paths of Chinese 
etymology, where the sound only is to be the guide. [In the early Latin 
text it is quiesitani.] 

1 82 Travels of Marco Polo 

three successive days and nights, at the expiration of which 
they are relieved by another division. When all the four have 
completed their period of duty,, it comes again to the turn of the 
first. During the day-time., the nine thousand who are of! 
guard do not,, however,, quit the palace, unless when employed 
upon the service of his majesty, or when the individuals are 
called away for their domestic concerns, in which case they 
must obtain leave of absence through their commanding officer; 
and if, in consequence of any serious occurrence, such as that 
of a father, a brother, or any near relation being at the point of 
death, their immediate return should be prevented, they must 
apply to his majesty for an extension of their leave. But in 
the night-time these nine thousand retire to tbeir quarters. 



WHEN his majesty holds a grand and public court, those who 
attend it are seated in the following order. The table of the 
sovereign is placed before his elevated throne, and he takes his 
seat on the northern side, with his face turned towards the 
south; and next to him, on his left hand, sits the empress. On 
his right hand, upon seats somewhat lower, are placed his sons, 
grandsons, and other persons connected with him by blood, 
that is to say, who are descended from the imperial stock. 
The seat, however, of Chingis, his eldest son, is raised a little 
above those of his other sons, whose heads are nearly on a 
level with the feet of the grand khan. The other princes and 
the nobility have their places at still lower tables; and the 
same rules are observed with respect to the females, the wives 
of the sons, grandsons, and other relatives of the grand khan 
being seated on the left hand, at tables in like manner gradu 
ally lower ; l then follow the wives of the nobility and military 

1 At the modern Chinese festivals no women, of any class whatever, 
make their appearance; but during the reign of Kublai, the Tartar 
customs were blended with the Chinese at the imperial court; and ac- 

The Court of the Grand Khan 183 

officers: so that all are seated according to their respective 
ranks and dignities, in the places assigned to them, and to 
which they are entitled. The tables are arranged in such a 
manner that the grand khan, sitting on his elevated throne, 
can overlook the whole. It is not, however, to be understood 
that all who assemble on such occasions can be accommodated 
at tables. The greater part of the officers, and even of the 
nobles, on the contrary, eat, sitting upon carpets, in the hall ; 
and on the outside stand a great multitude of persons who 
come from different countries, and bring with them many rare 
and curious articles. Some of these are feudatories, who 
desire to be reinstated in possessions that have been taken 
from them, and who always make their appearance upon the 
appointed days of public festivity, or occasions of royal 
marriages. 1 

In the middle of the hall, where the grand khan sits at table, 
there is a magnificent piece of furniture, made in the form of 
a square coffer, each side of which is three paces in length, 
exquisitely carved in figures of animals, and gilt. It is hollow 
within, for the purpose of receiving a capacious vase, shaped 
like a jar, and of precious materials, calculated to hold about 
a tun, and filled with wine. 2 On each of its four sides stands 

cording to those, the females were regarded as efficient members of 
society. Even at the present day the Tartar women (who are distin 
guished as such, although descended of families who have been settled 
in China for many generations) enjoy a degree of liberty to which the 
Chinese women are strangers. Under the dynasty which succeeded 
that of the Yuen or Mungals, the females of rank were spectators of the 
festival, although themselves unseen. 

1 It seems to have always been the policy of the Chinese court to defer 
the reception of ambassadors and their presents, until the occasion of 
some public festival; by which the double purpose is answered, of giving 
additional splendour to the business of the day, and at the same time of 
impressing the strangers with the magnificence of the ceremony attend 
ing the delivery of their credentials. It may likewise be observed in the 
accounts of all European embassies, that their presentations are accom 
panied by those of the envoys or deputies of the neighbouring or de 
pendent states. 

2 Although the juice of the grape is expressed in some parts of China, 
what is usually termed Chinese wine is a fermented liquor from grain. 

1 This conversation being finished," says John Bell, " the emperor gave 
the ambassador, with his own hand, a gold cup, full of warm tarassun 
(written dirasoun in the journal of Shah Rokh s embassy), a sweet, fer 
mented liquor, made of various sorts of grain, as pure and strong as 
canary wine, of a disagreeable smell, although not unpleasant to the 
taste." (Vol. ii. p. 8.) During the repast," says Staunton, " he sent 
them (the English) several dishes from his own table; and, when jt was 
over, he sent for them, and presented with his own hands to them a 
goblet of warm Chinese wine, not unlike Madeira of an inferior quality/* 
(Vol. ii. p. 237.) Pallas says that the tarassun may be compared to a 


Travels of Marco Polo 

a smaller vessel, containing about a hogshead, one of which is 
filled with mare s milk, another with that of the camel, and 
so of the others, according to the kinds of beverage in use. 1 
Within this buffet are also the cups or flagons belonging to his 
majesty, for serving the liquors. Some of them are of beauti 
ful gilt plate. 2 Their size is such that, when filled with wine 
or other liquor, the quantity would be sufficient for eight or 
ten men. Before every two persons who have seats at the 
tables, one of these flagons is placed, 3 together with a kind of 
ladle, in the form of a cup with a handle, also of plate; to be 
used not only for taking the wine out of the flagon, but for 
lifting it to the head. This is observed as well with respect to 
the women as the men. The quantity and richness of the 
plate belonging to his majesty is quite incredible. 4 Officers of 
rank are likewise appointed, whose duty it is to see that all 
strangers who happen to arrive at the time of the festival, and 
are unacquainted with the etiquette of the court, are suitably 
accommodated with places; and these stewards are continu 
ally visiting every part of the hall, inquiring of the guests if 
there is anything with which they are unprovided, or whether 
any of them wish for wine, milk, meat, or other articles, in 

mixture of brandy with English beer. (Reise, dritter Theil, p. 131.) 
" Us ne laissent pas de boire souvent du vin," says Du Halde: " ils le 
font d une espece particuliere de ris, different de celui dont ils se nour- 
rissent."- -Tom. ii. p. 118. 

1 That milk is the favourite beverage of the Tartars is well known; 
and as the court and the army were, at the period in question, almost ex 
clusively of that nation, we must not be surprised to find it introduced 
at a festival in the capital of China. With respect to the probability of 
camels milk being found there, Staunton notices the employment of 
camels or dromedaries in great numbers, for the conveyance of goods, 
in the parts of Tartary bordering on the northern provinces of that 
country, and Du Halde enumerates les chameaux a deux bosses " 
amongst the Chinese animals. 

* Ramusio s expression is, " Sonvi alcuni d oro bellissimi, che si chia- 
mano vernique," and he again uses verniqua as the name of the vessel. 
I suspect, however, some confusion. Vernicato d oro (from vernice, 
varnish,) signifies gilt or washed with gold, and verniqua seems to be con 
nected with this meaning. Besides, it is obvious that vessels capable of 
containing liquor for eight or ten persons, would, if formed of massive 
gold, be much too ponderous for use. 

3 The tables at Chinese feasts are small, and generally calculated for 
two persons only. 

4 After plundering a great part of the world, it is not surprising that 
the family of Jengiz-khan should be possessed of a quantity of the pre 
cious metals enormously large in proportion to what circulated in Europe 
or Asia before the discovery of the Mexican and Peruvian mines. Frequent 
mention is made of golden cups or goblets, and B<ell speaks of large dishes 
of massive gold sent by the emperor to their lodgings. 

Manner of Feasting at Court 185 

which case it is immediately brought to them by the atten 
dants. 1 

At each door of the grand hall, or of whatever part the grand 
khan happens to be in, stand two officers, of a gigantic figure, 
one on each side, with staves in their hands, for the purpose of 
preventing persons from touching the threshold with their 
feet, and obliging them to step beyond it. If by chance any 
one is guilty of this offence, these janitors take from him his 
garment, which he must redeem for money; or, when they do 
not take the garment, they inflict on him such number of blows 
as they have authority for doing. But, as strangers may be 
unacquainted with the prohibition, officers are appointed to 
introduce them, by whom they are warned of it; and this 
precaution is used because touching the threshold is there re 
garded as a bad omen. 2 In departing from the hall, as some 
of the company may be affected by the liquor, it is impossible 
to guard against the accident, and the order is not then 
strictly enforced. 3 The numerous persons who attend at 
the sideboard of his majesty, and who serve him with 
victuals and drink, are all obliged to cover their noses and 
mouths with handsome veils or cloths of worked silk, in 
order that his victuals or his wine may not be affected by their 
breath. When drink is called for by him, and the page in 
waiting has presented it, he retires three paces and kneels 
down, upon which the courtiers, and all who are present, in 
like manner make their prostration. At the same moment all 
the musical instruments, of which there is a numerous band 
begin to play, and continue to do so until he has ceased drink 
ing, when all the company recover their posture; and this 
reverential salutation is made so often as his majesty drinks. 4 
It is unnecessary to say anything of the victuals, because it 

1 For the degree of civilization which these attentions imply, we should 
give credit to the long-established usages of the conquered people, rather 
than to any regulations introduced by the family then on the throne. 
All our travellers concur in their description of the order and propriety 
observed at these entertainments, where a silence reigns approaching to 

2 This superstition is noticed both by Plan de Carpin and Rubruquis 
as existing amongst the Tartars. 

* This is one of the innumerable instances of naivete or honest simplicity 
in our author s relations and remarks. Inebriety was the favourite vice 
of the Tartars, and at this period it had been but partially corrected by 
the more sober example of the Chinese. 

4 Music invariably accompanies these festivities. " The music," says 
John Bell, " played all the time of dinner. The chief instruments were 
flutes, harps, and lutes, all tuned to the. Chinese taste." Vol. ii. p. 13 

i 86 Travels of Marco Polo 

may well be imagined that their abundance is excessive, 
When the repast is finished, and the tables have been removed, 
persons of various descriptions enter the hall,, and amongst 
these a troop of comedians and performers on different instru 
ments, as also tumblers and jugglers, who exhibit their skill in 
the presence of the grand khan, to the high amusement and 
gratification of all the spectators. 1 When these sports are con 
cluded, the people separate, and each returns to hi own house. 



ALL the Tartar and other subjects of the grand khan celebrate 
as a festival the day of his majesty s birth, which took place 
on the twenty-eighth day of the month of September; 2 and 
this is their greatest festival, excepting only that kept on the 
first day of the year, which shall be hereafter described. Upon 
this anniversary the grand khan appears in a superb dress of 
cloth of gold, and on the same occasion full twenty thousand 
nobles and military officers are clad by him in dresses similar 
to his own in point of colour and form; but the materials are 
not equally rich. They are, however, of silk, and of the colour 
of gold ; 3 and along with the vest they likewise receive a girdle 

1 These histrionic, athletic, and juggling exhibitions, which at all 
periods have very much resembled each other, will be found circum 
stantially described in the accounts of the several embassies to Pekin, 
from that of Shah Rokh, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, to 
those of the English and Dutch, in the latter part of the eighteenth. 

2 According to the " Histoire generale de la Chine" (p. 282), Kublai 
or Hupilaii (as the Chinese pronounce the name), was born in the eighth 
moon of the year corresponding to 1216; which, as will be seen in a sub 
sequent note respecting the commencement of the Kataian year, answers 
satisfactorily to the month of September, as stated by our author. 

3 Although yellow has long been the imperial colour in China, it is 
said not to have been such at all periods, some of the early dynasties 
having affected red and other colours. It may be conjectured that the 
attachment to it has proceeded from its being worn by the predominant 
sect of lamas in Tibet, to whose superstitions the emperors of China 
have been zealously addicted; although, on the other hand, it is possible 
that this sect of lamas may have adopted the imperial colour. To 
Kublai, indeed, the establishment of the lama hierarchy, on its present 
footing, is by some attributed, and the first Dalai lama is said to have 
been nominated by him. Others, however, suppose that the titles of 
Pala i lama and Panchan lama were not conferred before the reign of 

Festival of the Grand Khan s Nativity 187 

of chamois leather,, curiously worked with gold and silver 
thread, and also a pair of boots. 1 Some of the dresses are 
ornamented with precious stones and pearls to the value of a 
thousand bezants of gold, and are given to those nobles who, 
from their confidential employments, are nearest to his 
majesty s person, and are termed quiecitari? These dresses 
are appointed to be worn on the thirteen solemn festivals cele 
brated in the thirteen (lunar) months of the year, 3 when those 
who are clad in them make an appearance that is truly royal. 
When his majesty assumes any particular dress, the nobles of 
his court wear corresponding, but less costly, dresses, which 
are always in readiness. 4 They are not annually renewed, but 
on the contrary are made to last about ten years. From this 
parade an idea may be formed of the magnificence of the grand 
khan, which is unequalled by that of any monarch in the 

On the occasion of this festival of the grand khan s nativity, 
all his Tartar subjects, and likewise the people of every king 
dom and province throughout his dominions, send him valu 
able presents, according to established usage. Many persons 
who repair to court in order to solicit principalities to which 
they have pretensions, also bring presents, and his majesty 
accordingly gives direction to the tribunal of twelve, who have 
cognisance of such matters, to assign to them such territories 
and governments as may be proper. 5 Upon this day likewise 
all the Christians, idolaters, and Saracens, together with every 

Hiuen-te, fifth emperor of the Ming. Both dynasties appear to have 
been assiduous in their encouragement of these ecclesiastics, through 
whose influence they were enabled to govern the western provinces with 
more facility. 

1 " People of condition," says the Abbe Grosier, " never go abroad 
but in boots, which are generally of satin." This article of dress is again 
mentioned in chap. xxvi. 

2 This word appears to be bastard Italian, a noun of agency formed 
from the verb " quiescere," and may be thought to denote those persons 
who, throughout the East, are employed, in various modes, to lull great 
personages to rest. 

Le calendrier ordinaire," observes the younger De Guignes, " divise 
Pannee par mois lunaires." Voy. a Peking, torn. ii. p. 418. 

4 This uniformity of court-dress is not the practice in modern times ; 
on the contrary, the imperial colour is confined to the family of the 

5 It may be inferred from hence that all the feudal principalities, 
governments, and public offices, were bestowed upon those who brought 
the richest presents, or, in other words, were sold to the highest bidders. 
The boundless expenditure of this monarch, on the one hand, and the 
avaricious propensity with which he is reproached, appear to have pro 
duced a system of general rapacity. It is probable, however, that the 
avarice may have been only inferred from the extortion. 

1 88 Travels of Marco Polo 

other description of people, offer up devout prayers to their 
respective gods and idols, that they may bless and preserve 
the sovereign, and bestow upon him long life, health, and 
prosperity. Such, and so extensive, are the rejoicings on the 
return of his majesty s birth-day. We shall now speak of 
another festival, termed the White Feast, celebrated at the 
commencement of the year. 



IT is well ascertained that the Tartars date the commence 
ment of their year from the month of February, 1 and on that 
occasion it is customary for the grand khan, as well as all who 
are subject to him, in their several countries, to clothe them 
selves in white garments, which, according to their ideas, are 
the emblem of good fortune: 2 and they assume this dress at 

1 In this assertion our author presents a most unexceptionable test 
of his authenticity. It must be observed that, in stating the commence 
ment of the year to be reckoned from the month of February (del mese 
di Febraio), he does not fix it to any precise day of our calendar; which, 
in fact, he could not have done with correctness; and although Ramusio, 
in his title to the chapter, mentions the first day of the month, and the 
Latin version implies the same by the phrase of "in die calendarum 
Februarii," it is otherwise in the Italian epitomes, and their reading is 
justified by the actual circumstances. In the " Epochae celebriores " of 
Ulugh Beig (the son of Shah Rokh), translated by the learned Greaves, 
we are informed that the solar year of the Kataians and Igurians com 
mences on that day in which the sun attains the middle point of the con 
stellation of Aquarius; and this we find from the Ephemeris fluctuates 
between the third and the fifth of February, according to our bissextile. 
With respect to their civil year, which must be that of which our author 
speaks, we have a satisfactory account of it in the " Voyage de la Chine " 
of P. Trigault, compiled from the writings of the eminent Matt. Ricci, 
who says: " A chasque nouvelle an, qui commence a la nouvelle lune 
qui precede ou suit prochainement le cinquiesme de Fevrier, duquel les 
Chinois content le commencement du printemps, on envoye de chasque 
province un ambassadeur pour visiter officieusement le roy (p. 60): 
by which we should understand, the new moon that falls the nearest to 
(either before or after) the time of the sun s reaching the middle point ol 
Aquarius; and consequently the festival cannot be assigned to any parti 
cular day of the European calendar. 

2 The superstition of considering white, which is naturally the emblem 
of purity, as having an influence in producing good fortune, has been 

The White Feast ] 

the beginning of the year, in the hope that, during the whole 
course of it, nothing but what is fortunate may happen to them, 
and that they may enjoy pleasure and comfort. Upon this 
day the inhabitants of all the provinces and kingdoms who hold 
lands or rights of jurisdiction under the grand khan, send him 
valuable presents of gold, silver, and precious stones, together 
with many pieces of white cloth, which they add, with the 
intent that his majesty may experience throughout the year 
uninterrupted felicity, and possess treasures adequate to all 
his expenses. With the same view the nobles, princes, and all 
ranks of the community, make reciprocal presents, at their 
respective houses, of white articles; embracing each other 
with demonstrations of joy and festivity, and saying (as we 
ourselves are accustomed to do), " May good fortune attend 
you through the coming year, and may everything you under 
take succeed to your wish. l On this occasion great numbers 
of beautiful white horses are presented to the grand khan; or 
if not perfectly white, it is at least the prevailing colour. In 
this country white horses are not uncommon. 

It is moreover the custom in making presents to the grand 
khan, for those who have it in their power to furnish nine 
times nine of the article of which the present consists. Thus, 

very prevalent throughout the world; as black, on the contrary, from 
its connexion with impurity, darkness, and the grave, has been thought 
the foreboder of ill-luck, and become the type of sadness. The Chinese, 
however, whose customs, in many respects, run counter to those of 
other nations, have judged proper to establish the former, instead of the 
latter, as their mourning dress; but Kublai", although he adopted most 
of the civil institutions of his new and more civilized subjects, did not, 
and possibly could not, even if he had wished it, oblige his own people 
to change their ancient superstitions. It accordingly appears that, 
during his reign at least, and probably so long as his dynasty held the 
throne, the festival of the new year was celebrated in white dresses, and 
white horses were amongst the most acceptable presents to the emperor. 
When the dynasty of the Ming, which was native Chinese, succeeded to 
that of the Mungals, the use of white on this occasion was again pro 

1 " The first day of the new year, and a few succeeding days," Barrow 
observes, " are the only holidays, properly speaking, that are observed 
by the working part of the community. On these days the poorest 
peasant makes a point of procuring new clothing for himself and his 
family; they pay their visits to friends and relations, interchange civili 
ties and compliments, make and receive presents; and the officers of 
government, and the higher ranks, give feasts and entertainments." 
(Trav. in China, p. 155.) " Their whole time," says L Abbe Gr osier, " is 
employed in plays, diversions, and feasting. The shops are everywhere 
shut; and all the people, dressed out in their richest attire, go to visit 
their parents, friends, and patrons. Nothing in this respect can have a 
greater resemblance to our visits on the first day of the new year." 
Vol. ii. p. 323. 

190 Travels of Marco Polo 

for instance, if a province sends a present of horses, there are 
nine times nine, or eighty-one head in the drove; so also of 
gold, or of cloth, nine times nine pieces. 1 By such means his 
majesty receives at this festival no fewer than a hundred 
thousand horses. On this day it is that all his elephants, 
amounting to five thousand, are exhibited in procession, 
covered with housings of cloth, fancifully and richly worked 
with gold and silk, in figures of birds and beasts. 2 Each of 
these supports upon its shoulders two coffers filled with vessels 
of plate and other apparatus for the use of the court. Then 
follows a train of camels, in like manner laden with various 
necessary articles of furniture. 3 When the whole are properly 
arranged, they pass in review before his majesty, and form a 
pleasing spectacle. 

On the morning of the festival, before the tables are spread, 
all the princes, the nobility of various ranks, 4 the cavaliers, 

1 The superstitious ideas prevailing amongst the nations of Tartary 
respecting the properties of this number are circumstantially detailed 
by Strahlenberg, from whose well-known work the following passage, 
which will be found abundantly sufficient to justify our author s asser 
tion, is extracted: " I shall therefore proceed to relate," says this 
observing traveller and laborious investigator, " what I myself have 
observed in those North-eastern parts, as also what I have remarked in 
other writers, who have treated of this part of the world, concerning 
this subject, and particularly with regard to the number Nine, what 
yet remains among the inhabitants of these parts. L Histoire du grand 
Ghenghizcan, par M. Petis de la Croix, p. 79, informs us, that when Temu- 
giri was elected Great Chan, and named Gherighiz-can, all the people 
bowed their knees to him nine times, to wish him a prosperous continua 
tion of his reign: and this is yet a custom with the Chinese-Tartarian 
emperors, before whom ambassadors, when they are admitted to audi 
ence, are obliged to make their obeisances kneeling, nine times at their 
entrance, and just as often at their departure. The same ceremony is 
yet in use with the Usbeck Tartars; for when a person has anything of 
importance to ask of, or to treat with, their chan, he must not only offer 
>a present, consisting of nine particular things or curiosities, but when 
he approaches him to deliver it, must bow nine times; which ceremony 
these Tartars call the Zagataian audience." -Introduction, p. 86. 

2 As Kublai had subdued Ava, and other southern provinces, where 
elephants are found in great number, and where they had been opposed 
to his armies in battle, it is natural that he should be inclined to add 
these powerful animals to his establishment, if not for military purposes, 
at least for parade or as beasts of burden; and they were accordingly 
delivered to him in tribute from the conquered princes. A few are kept 
by the emperors of the dynasty now reigning, but, as it~ would seem, 
merely for state. 

3 It has already been mentioned that camels or dromedaries, especially 
those with two bunches, are common in China. 

4 Amongst the Chinese or Tartars there is no hereditary nobility, and 
the term is here, and elsewhere, employed, in default of a better, to 
express that class or rank of persons who hold the ? ca. offices of state, 
and sore in Persia and Hindustan styled Amirs. The reader must be 
well aware that in the modern intercourse of Europeans with China, 

Court Ceremonial in China 1 9 1 

astrologers, physicians, and falconers, with many others hold 
ing public offices, the prefects of the people and of the lands, 1 
together with the officers of the army, make their entry into 
the grand hall, in front of the emperor. Those who cannot 
find room within, stand on the outside of the building, in such 
a situation as to be within sight of their sovereign. The as 
semblage is marshalled in the following order. The first places 
are assigned to the sons and grandsons of his majesty and all 
the imperial family. Next to these are the provincial kings 5 
and the nobility of the empire, according to their several 
degrees, in regular succession. When all have been disposed 
in the places appointed for them, a person of high dignity, or 
as we should express it, a great prelate, 3 rises and says with a 
loud voice: " Bow down and do reverence; when instantly 
all bend their bodies until their foreheads touch the floor. 
Again the prelate cries : " God bless our lord, and long preserve 
him in the enjoyment of felicity." To which the people 
answer: " God grant it." Once more the prelate says: 
" May God increase the grandeur and prosperity of his empire; 
may he preserve all those who are his subjects in the blessings 
of peace and contentment; and in all their lands may abun 
dance prevail." The people again reply: "God grant it." 
They then make their prostrations four times. 4 This being 

officers of all degrees, civil and military, from those who manage the 
great concerns of the empire down to the persons stationed in boats to 
prevent (or connive at) smuggling, are indiscriminately called mandarins ; 
but of this title, although it might often be convenient in translating, 
I do not avail myself, not only on account of the vagueness of its appli 
cation, but because, as it was not known in our author s time, its intro 
duction into his text would be a species of anachronism. 

1 With a view not only to political security, but to the more ready 
collection of the capitation and other taxes, the people were numbered, 
and divided into classes, on a progressive decimal scale, from ten to ten 
thousand, over each of which a responsible officer presided; and as the 
revenue from the lands was collected in kind, officers, not unlike the 
zemindars of the Moghul government in Hindustan, were appointed by 
the emperor to watch over and transmit the produce to the royal granaries 
near Pekin. 

2 The Chinese title of vang, which the Portuguese render by the word 
regulo, and the French Jesuits by roitclet and roi, was usually conferred 
on the tributary princes throughout Tartary. 

3 The term prelato, which has nothing corresponding to it in the other 
versions, seems to be gratuitous on the part of Ramusio. In the Basle 
edition the words are, " surgit unus in medio," and in the epitomes, 

el se leva uno huomo in mezo." [In Italian text, that pub 
lished by Boni, the words are, " si leva un grande parlato."] 

4 " Le maitre des ceremonies," says the younger De Guignes, " qui est 
un des premiers mandarins du Ly-pou, ou tribunal des rites, s etant place 
fires de la porte Ou-men, crie d une voix haute et percante: Mettez- 
vons en ordre- tournez-vous; mettez-vous h genoux; frappez la tete 

192 Travels of Marco Polo 

done, the prelate advances to an altar, richly adorned, upon 
which is placed a red tablet inscribed with the name of the 
grand khan. Near to this stands a censer of burning incense, 
with which the prelate, on the behalf of all who are assembled, 
perfumes the tablet and the altar, in a reverential manner; 
when every one present humbly prostrates himself before the 
tablet. 1 This ceremony being concluded, they return to 
their places, and then make the presentation of their respective 
gifts; such as have been mentioned. When a display has 
been made of these, and the grand khan has cast his eyes upon 
them, the tables are prepared for the feast, and the company, 
as well women as men, arrange themselves there in the manner 
and order described in a former chapter. Upon the removal 
of the victuals, the musicians and theatrical performers ex 
hibit for the amusement of the court, as has been already 
related. But on this occasion a lion is conducted into the 
presence of his majesty, so tame, that it is taught to lay itself 
down at his feet. 2 The sports being finished, every one re 
turns to his own home. 

centre terre; frappez encore; frappez de nouveau; levez-vous. On se 
remet encore a genoux, et Ton recommence deux fois le salut; ainsi 
1 hommage consiste a faire trois fois trois saluts. Apres le dernier, le 
mandarin crie: Levez-vous; tournez-vous ; mettez-vous en ordre: 
puts il se met a genoux lui-meme devant la porte, et dit: Seigneur, les 
ceremonies sont terminees. " (Voy. a Peking, etc. torn. iii. p. 44.) An 
account agreeing precisely in substance with the above, but more cir 
cumstantial in the detail, will be found in the Nouv. Relat. of P. Magal- 
hanes, p. 304. " The master of the ceremonies," says John Bell, 
" brought back the ambassador, and then ordered all the company to 
kneel, and make obeisance nine times to the emperor. At every third 
time we stood up and kneeled again. Great pains were taken to avoid 
this piece of homage, but without success. The master of the cere 
monies stood by, and delivered his orders in the Tartar language, by 
pronouncing the words morgu and boss ; the first meaning to bow, ancl 
the other to stand; two words which I cannot soon forget" (Vol. ii. 
p. 7.) All the editions of our author s work agree in stating that this 
ceremony was repeated four times; whereas it is well known that the 
repetitions are three and nine. Either his memory must have failed 
him, or, which is more probable, the numeral figures of an early manu 
script may have been mistaken by the copyists. 

1 The ceremony of making prostrations before the empty throne, or 
before a tablet on which is written the name of the emperor, appears 
to belong rather to the festival of his nativity, than to that of the new 

2 Frequent mention is made of lions (which are not found either in 
China or Chinese Tartary) being sent as presents from the western 

Grand Khan s Hunting Establishment 193 



AT the season when the grand khan resides in the capital of 
Cathay, or during the months of December, January, and 
February, at which time the cold is excessive, he gives orders 
for general hunting parties to take place in all the countries 
within forty stages of the court; and the governors of dis 
tricts are required to send thither all sorts of game of the 
larger kind, such as wild boars, stags, fallow deer, roebucks, 
and bears, which are taken in the following manner: All 
persons possessed of land in the province repair to the places 
where these animals are to be found, and proceed to enclose 
them within a circle, when they are killed, partly with dogs, 
but chiefly by shooting them with arrows. 1 Such of them as 
are intended for his majesty s use are first paunched for that 
purpose, and then forwarded on carriages, in large quantities, 
by those who reside within thirty stages of the capital. Those, 
in fact, who are at the distance of forty stages, do not, on 
account of the length of the journey, send the carcases, but 
only the skins, some dressed and others raw, to be made use 
of for the service of the army as his majesty may judge proper. 



THE grand khan has many leopards and lynxes kept for the 
purpose of chasing deer, and also many lions, which are larger 
than the Babylonian lions, have good skins and of a handsome 
colour being streaked lengthways, with white, black, and red 
stripes. They are active in seizing boars, wild oxen and asses, 
bears, stags, roebucks, and other beasts that are the objects of 
sport. It is an admirable sight, when the lion is let loose in 
pursuit of the animal, to observe the savage eagerness and 

1 This mode of hunting by surrounding the game within extensive 
lines, gradually contracted, has been often described by travellers. 

1 94 Travels of Marco Polo 

speed with which he overtakes it. His majesty has them con 
veyed for this purpose, in cages placed upon cars/ and along 
with them is confined a little dog, with which they become 
familiarised. The reason for thus shutting them up is, that 
they would otherwise be so keen and furious at the sight of the 
game that it would be impossible to keep them under the 
necessary constraint. It is proper that they should be led in a 
direction opposite to the wind, in order that they may not be 
scented by the game, which would immediately run off, and 
afford no chance of sport. His majesty has eagles also, which 
are trained to stoop at wolves, and such is their size and 
strength that none, however large, can escape from their talons. 




His majesty has in his service two persons, brothers both by 
the father and mother, one of them named Bayan 2 and 
the other Mingan, who are, what in the language of the Tartars 
are called, chivichi? that is to say, masters of the chase," 

1 It has already been observed that the Moghuls of Hindustan keep 
small leopards, to be employed in hunting. It would seem, however, 
that the largest animals of this genus were also tamed for the imperial 
sport. The former are described as being carried on horseback, behind 
their keepers; but these in cages on a sort of car. By some other of 
the old Italian writers they are termed " leonze domestice da cacciare." 
It is evident from this description, as well as from the whole context, 
that the beast here spoken of as the lion is in fact no other than the 
tiger, and ought to have been so named; but whether the mistake is to 
be attributed to our author himself, who might have forgotten some of 
the terms of his native language, or to his first translators, we have not 
the means of determining. The lion is known to be of a tawny colour, 
nearly uniform, whereas the tiger is marked with the colours mentioned 
above, if only for red we substitute a reddish yellow. It will not be 
thought an improbable supposition that the confounding of these appella 
tions may have proceeded from our author s intercourse with Persians 
and other Mahometans, in his journey from China to Europe, as it is 
well known to oriental scholars that with these people the same terms 
are almost indiscriminately applied to both species of animal. 

2 This may have been the person of the same name who so eminently 
distinguished himself as commander-iri-chief of Kublai s armies, and 
who is mentioned in a subsequent chapter as the conqueror of Southern 
China. In the early Italian epitomes the names of the two brothers are 
written Baxam and Mitigam. 

3 Our vocabularies of the Mungal language are so imperfect, that 
even if the words occurring in the text had been correctly written and 
preserved, we might fail in our endeavours to identify them; but cor* 

Grand Khan s Hunting Establishment 195 

having charge of the hounds fleet and slow, and of the mastiffs. 
Each of these has under his orders a body of ten thousand 
chasseurs ; those under the one brother wearing a red uniform, 
and those under the other, a sky-blue, whenever they are upon 
duty. The dogs of different descriptions which accompany 
them to the field are not fewer than five thousand. 1 The one 
brother, with his division, takes the ground to the right hand 
of the emperor, and the other to the left, with his division, 
and each advances in regular order, until they have enclosed 
a tract of country to the extent of a day s march. By this 
means no beast can escape them. It is a beautiful and an ex 
hilarating sight to watch the exertions of the huntsmen and the 
sagacity of the dogs, when the emperor is within the circle, 
engaged in the sport, and they are seen pursuing the stags, 
bears, and other animals, in every direction. The two 
brothers are under an engagement to furnish the court daily, 
from the commencement of October to the end of March, with 
a thousand pieces of game, quails being excepted; and also 
with fish, of which as large a quantity as possible is to be sup 
plied, estimating the fish that three men can eat at a meal as 
equivalent to one piece of game. 



WHEN his majesty has resided the usual time in the metro 
polis, and leaves it in the month of March, he proceeds in a 

rupted as they are by transcription, the attempt is vain. This, which 
in Ramusio s version is civici, (or chivichi according to our orthography,) 
is, in the Italian epitome of 1496, written civitri, in the earliest Latin 
edition cynici, and in the B.M. and Berlin manuscripts canici; from 
which latter, if the spelling has not been perverted by the fancy of copy 
ists, we might be led to suppose the word a derivative from the Italian 
cane, a dog. [In the Latin text published by the French Geographical 
Society, it is cinuchi.] 

1 It is not common to find any mention of sporting dogs amongst the 
Chinese or Chinese Tartars; but of their existence Bell furnishes us with 
direct proof. After this entertainment," he says, " the Aleggada 
(colao) carried us first to see his dogs, of which he had great variety. I 
formerly observed that this gentleman was a great sportsman. He 
took greater pleasure in talking of hounds than of politics; though at 
the same time he had the character of a very able minister and an honest 
man." Vol. ii. p. 22. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

north-easterly direction,, to within two days journey of the 
ocean/ attended by full ten thousand falconers, who carry 
with them a vast number of gerfalcons,, peregrine falcons, and 
sakers, as well as many vultures, in order to pursue the game 
along the banks of the river. 2 It must be understood that he 
does not keep all this body of men together in one place, but 
divides them into several parties of one or two hundred or 
more, who follow the sport in various directions, and the 
greater part of what they take is brought to his majesty. He 
has likewise with him ten thousand men of those who are 
termed taskaol* implying that their business is to be upon the 
watch, and, who, for this purpose, are detached in small parties 
of two or three to stations not far distant from each other, in 
such a manner as to encompass a considerable tract of country. 
Each of them is provided with a call and a hood, by which they 
are enabled, when necessary, to call in and to secure the birds. 
Upon the command being given for flying the hawks, those who 
let them loose are not under the necessity of following them, 
because the others, whose duty it is, look out so attentively 
that the birds cannot direct their flight to any quarter where 
they are not secured, or promptly assisted if there should be 
occasion. Every bird belonging to his majesty, or to any of 
his nobles, has a small silver label fastened to its leg, on which 
is engraved the name of the owner and also the name of the 
keeper. In consequence of this precaution, as soon as the 
hawk is secured, it is immediately known to whom it belongs, 

1 The simple construction of the words in Ramusio s text, " indi par- 
tendosi il mese di Marzo, va verso Greco al mare oceano, il quale da li 
e discosta per due giornate," would imply that he proceeded from the 
capital to the ocean, which was distant from thence two days journey: 
but either the author s sense must have been misunderstood, when he 
meant to say that the route was to a country situated within two days 
journey of the ocean, or there must be a gross error in the number of days, 
which should rather be read, months ; for the whole context shows that 
he is speaking of one of the emperor s distant progresses, through the 
Manchu country, into the wilds of Eastern Tartary, and by no means of 
a petty excursion to the shore of the Yellow Sea, which is only a few 
stages from Pekin. 

2 The river here spoken of may be either the Songari, which was the 
limit of Kang-hi s expedition, or it may be the Usuri, to which latter I 
incline, as it is the most eastern, and consequently the nearest to the 
Dcean, of the great streams that unite with the Sagalien ula, and contri 
bute to form the Amur, the boundary between the Russian and Chinese 
dominions in that quarter. 

3 The word, which in different versions takes the forms of toscaol, 
toscaor, roscanor, roschaor, restaur, and, in the early Italian epitome, 
tastori, I am unable to refer to any known language. In the Basle 
edition it is translated " custodes; " by Ramusio, " huomini che stauno 
alia custodia." 

Precautions Relating to Lost Property 197 

and restored accordingly. If it happens that, although the 
name appears, the owner, not being personally known to the 
finder, cannot be ascertained in the first instance, the bird is, 
in that case, carried to an officer termed bulangazi* whose title 
imports that he is the " guardian of unclaimed property/ 3 If 
a horse, therefore, a sword, a bird, or any other article is found, 
and it does not appear to whom it belongs, the finder carries it 
directly to this officer, by whom it is received in charge and 
carefully preserved. If, on the other hand, a person finds any 
article that has been lost, and fails to carry it to the proper 
depositary, he is accounted a thief. Those by whom any pro 
perty has been lost make their application to this officer, by 
whom it is restored to them. His situation is always in the 
most elevated part of the camp, and distinguished by a par 
ticular flag, in order that he may be the more readily found by 
such as have occasion to apply to him. The effect of this 
regulation is, that no articles are ultimately lost. 

When his majesty makes his progress in this manner, 
towards the shores of the ocean, many interesting occurrences 
attend the sport, and it may truly be said that it is unrivalled 
by any other amusement in the world. 2 On account of the 
narrowness of the passes in some parts of the country where 
the grand khan follows the chase, he is borne upon two ele 
phants only, or sometimes a single one, being more con 
venient than a greater number; but under other circumstances 
he makes use of four, upon the backs of which is placed a 
pavilion of wood, handsomely carved, 3 the inside being lined 

1 All endeavours to ascertain by any probable etymology the true 
orthography of this word, also, have been unsuccessful. It is written 
in the different versions, bulangazi balangugi, bularguci, bugtami. and 
bugrim. The first two may be presumed the more nearly correct, 
because all the nouns in the Kalmuk-Mungalian language that denote 
employments terminate in izchi, according to the German ot Strahlen- 
berg, which is equivalent to the Italian zi or d. The establishment of 
such an office does credit to the police of a Tartar camp. 

a Our author, who, from this and many other expressions in the 
course of his work, appears to have been passionately fond of the sports 
of the field, must have recommended himself to the favour of his master 
by this congenial taste. 

3 It does not appear that any of the modern emperors of China have 
made use of these grand animals for their personal conveyance. " He " 
(the emperor Kang-hi), says Bell, " was seated, cross-legged, in an open 
machine, carried by four men, with long poles rested on their 
shoulders. Before him lay a fowling-piece, a bow, and sheaf of arrows. 
This has been his hunting equipage for some years, since he left off riding; 
but in his youth he went usually, every summer, several days journey 
without the long wall, and carried with him all the princes his sons, 
and many persons of distinction, to the number frequently of some 

1 98 Travels of Marco Polo 

with cloth of gold, and the outside covered with the skins of 
lions, 1 a mode of conveyance which is rendered necessarv to 

* <* * 

him during his hunting excursions, in consequence of the gout, 
with which he is troubled. In the pavilion he always carries 
with him twelve of his best gerfalcons, with twelve officers, 
from amongst his favourites, to bear him company and amuse 
him. Those who are on horseback by his side give him notice 
of the approach of cranes or other birds, upon which he raises 
the curtain of the pavilion, and when he espies the game, 
gives direction for letting fly the gerfalcons, which seize the 
cranes and overpower them after a long struggle. The view 
of this sport, as he lies upon his couch, affords extreme satis 
faction to his majesty, as well as to the officers who attend him, 
and to the horsemen by whom he is surrounded. After having 
thus enjoyed the amusement for some hours, he repairs to a 
place named Kakzarmodin, 2 w r here are pitched the pavilions 
and tents of his sons, and also of the nobles, the life-guards, 3 
and the falconers; exceeding ten thousand in number, and 
making a handsome appearance. The tent of his majesty, in 
which he gives his audiences, is so long and wide that under it 
ten thousand soldiers might be drawn up, leaving room for the 
superior officers and other persons of rank. 4 Its entrance 
fronts the south, and on the eastern side it has another tent 

thousands, in order to hunt in the woods and deserts, where he con 
tinued for the space of two or three months." Travels, vol. ii. p. 76. 

1 That is, of tigers or leopards, the skins of which are known to be in 
common use for covering seats, and other similar purposes, amongst 
persons of rank in China; as the animal itself abounds in Tartary, and 
is the subject of royal sport; whereas all travellers agree in assuring us 
that the lion is not a native of that region. See p. 194, note x . 

2 This name of Kakzar-modin, which in the Latin manuscript of the 
British Museum, and early Italian epitome, is written Cacia-mordin, has 
some resemblance to Chakiri-mpndou, situated, according to the Jesuits 
map, at the head of the Usuri river (which falls into the Amur), and 
about midway between a considerable lake amongst the mountains and 
the sea. [In the Latin text of the Societe de Geographic, it is written 
Cacchiatriodum, and in the Italian of Boni, Tarcarmodu.] 

3 The cavalieri here mentioned appear to be that military class which 
Van Braam describes under the name of chiouais, and especially those of 
the third order. The chiaoux of the Turkish or Ottoman court perform 
duties analogous to those of the huissiers in France. 

4 This number appears large, but it is no more than a body of one 
hundred men in rank, and as many in file, who might also, by narrowing 
their front, be drawn up under an awning of fifty yards by two hundred 
in depth. The armies of the Tartars, as well as of the Persians, are 
commonly reckoned by tomans, or brigades of ten thousand. It is re 
corded of TimuT, that he was accustomed to estimate the strength of his 
armies, not by individual numeration, but by the quantity of men who 
could stand within a given space, which was occupied in succession, until 
the whole were measured. 

The Tent of the Grand Khan 199 

connected with it, forming a capacious saloon, which the 
emperor usually occupies, with a few of his nobility, and when 
he thinks proper to speak to any other persons, they are intro 
duced to him in that apartment. In the rear of this there is 
a large and handsome chamber, where he sleeps; and there are 
many other tents and apartments (for the different branches 
of the household), but which are not immediately connected 
with the great tent. These halls and chambers are all con 
structed and fitted up in the following manner. Each of them 
is supported by three pillars of wood, richly carved and gilt. 
The tents are covered on the outside with the skins of lions, 
streaked white, black, and red, and so well joined together that 
neither wind nor rain can penetrate. Withinside they are 
lined with the skins of ermines and sables, which are the most 
costly of all furs; for the latter, if of a size to trim a dress, is 
valued at two thousands besants of gold, provided it be perfect; 
but if otherwise, only one thousand. It is esteemed by Tar 
tars the queen of furs. 1 The animal, which in their language 
is named rondes? is about the size of a polecat. With these 
two kinds of skin, the halls as well as the sleeping-rooms are 
handsomely fitted up in compartments, arranged with much 
taste and skill. The tent-ropes, or cords by which they stretch 
the tents, are all of silk. Near to the grand tent of his majesty 
are situated those of his ladies, also very handsome and splen 
did. They have in like manner their gerfalcons, their hawks, 
and other birds and beasts, with which they partake in the 
amusement. 3 The number of persons collected in these en 
campments is quite incredible, and a spectator might conceive 
himself to be in the midst of a populous city, so great is the 
assemblage from every part of the empire. The grand khan 
is attended on the occasion by the whole of his family and 

1 The northern Chinese are curious and expensive in furs, and the 
first of the sea-otter skins brought from the north-west coast of America 
were purchased at extravagant prices, although not so high as the sum 
mentioned in the text. The besant is supposed to have been equivalent 
to the sequin, the ducat, and the Arabian dinar, or about nine shillings 
of our money. 

2 The word rondes (probably corrupted) is not to be traced in Strah- 
lenberg s or other Mungalian vocabularies, but it evidently means the 
sable. The animal is more particularly mentioned in book iii. chap. 
xliv. [The early Italian text reads leroide, and the Latin, lenoida 

3 It has been before observed that the Tartar customs impose no parti 
cular restraint upon the women, who, on the contrary, in their camps, 
are said to be the principal dealers in cattle and other articles. 

2oo Travels of Marco Polo 

household; that is to say, his physicians, astronomers, fal 
coners, and every other description of officer. 1 

In these parts of the country he remains until the first vigil 
of our Easter, 2 during which period he never ceases to frequent 
the lakes and rivers, where he takes storks, swans, herons, and 
a variety of other birds. His people also being detached to 
several different places, procure for him a large quantity of 
game. In this manner, during the season of his diversion, he 
enjoys himself to a degree that no person who is not an eye 
witness can conceive; the excellence and the extent of the 
sport being greater than it is possible to express. It is strictly 
forbidden to every tradesman, mechanic, or husbandman 
throughout his majesty s dominions, to keep a vulture, hawk ; 
or any other bird used for the pursuit of game, or any sporting 
dog; nor is a nobleman or cavalier to presume to chase beast 
or bird in the neighbourhood of the place where his majesty 
takes up his residence, (the distance being limited to five miles, 
for example, on one side, ten on another, and perhaps fifteen in 
a third direction,) unless his name be inscribed in a list kept 
by the grand falconer, or he has a special privilege to that 
effect. Beyond those limits it is permitted. There is an 
order, however, which prohibits every person throughout all 
the countries subject to the grand khan, whether prince, 
nobleman, or peasant, from daring to kill hares, roebucks, 
fallow deer, stags, or other animals of that kind, or any large 
birds, between the months of March and October; to the 
intent that they may increase and multiply ; and as the breach 
of this order is attended with punishment, game of every 
description increases prodigiously. When the usual time is 
elapsed, his majesty returns to the capital by the road he went; 
continuing his sport during the whole of the journey. 

1 This was rather an extraordinary assemblage for a hunting expedi 
tion; but, on similar occasions, Kang-hi was accustomed to have in his 
suite some of the European missionaries who were astronomers and 
mathematicians, and amused himself in observing with them the cul 
mination of the stars, and in taking with a quadrant the altitude of 
mountains, buildings, and even of a gigantic statue of the idol Fo. It 
may be suspected, however, that Kublai s astronomers were no other 
than astrologers, or shamans. 

a The Kataian festivals being regulated, as ours are, by the new and 
full moons before or after the sun s reaching certain fixed points of the 
heavens, it is not surprising that the emperor s movements should seem 
to be regulated by our calendar. In the diaries of Plan de Carpin and 
Rubruquis, all the events of their journeys are noted according to the 
feasts, fasts, or Saints days of their rubric, instead of the days of th? 

Kanbalu arid Its Suburbs 201 



UPON the return of the grand khan to his capital, he holds a 
great and splendid court, which lasts three days, in the course 
of which he gives feasts and otherwise entertains those by 
whom he is surrounded. The amusements of these three days 
are indeed admirable. The multitude of inhabitants, and the 
number of houses in the city, as also in the suburbs without 
the city (of which there are twelve, corresponding to the twelve 
gates), is greater than the mind can comprehend. The suburbs 
are even more populous than the city, and it is there that the 
merchants and others whose business leads them to the capital, 
and who, on account of its being the residence of the court, 
resort thither in great numbers, take up their abode. Wher 
ever, indeed, his majesty holds his court, thither these people 
flock from all quarters, in pursuit of their several objects. In 
the suburbs there are also as handsome houses and stately 
buildings as in the city, with the exception only of the palace 
of the grand khan. No corpse is suffered to be interred 
within the precincts of the city ; 1 and those of the idolaters, 
wiln whom it is customary to burn their dead, are carried 
to the usual spot beyond the suburbs. 2 There likewise all 
public executions take place. Women who live by prostituting 
themselves for money dare not, unless it be secretly, to exercise 
their profession in the city, but must confine themselves to the 
suburbs, where, as has already been stated, there reside above 
five-and- twenty thousand; nor is this number greater than is 
necessary for the vast concourse of merchants and other 
strangers, who, drawn thither by the court, are continually 
arriving and departing. To this city everything that is most 
rare and valuable in all parts of the world finds its way; and 
more especially does this apply to India, which furnishes 
precious stones, pearls, and various drugs and spices. From 

1 " II est defendu aux Chinois," says Du Halde, " d enterrer leurs 
morts dans 1 enceinte des villes, et dans les qu on habite." Tom. ii. 
p. 125. 

The general practice of the Chinese is to bury, and not to burn their 
dead ; but it was otherwise with the Tartars, so long as they preserved 
their original habits. 

2O2 Travels of Marco Polo 

the provinces of Cathay itself, as well as from the other pro 
vinces of the empire, whatever there is of value is carried 
thither, to supply the demands of those multitudes who are 
induced to establish their residence in the vicinity of the court. 
The quantity of merchandise sold there exceeds also the traffic 
of any other place; for no fewer than a thousand carriages and 
pack-horses, loaded with raw silk, make their daily entry; and 
gold tissues and silks of various kinds are manufactured to an 
immense extent. 1 In the vicinity of the capital are many 
walled and other towns, whose inhabitants live chiefly by the 
court, selling the articles which they produce in the markets 
of the former, and procuring from thence in return such as 
their own occasions require. 



IN this city of Kanbalu is the mint of the grand khan, who may 
truly be said to possess the secret of the alchemists, as he has 
the art of producing money by the following process. 2 He 
causes the bark to be stripped from those mulberry-trees the 
leaves of which are used for feeding silk-worms, and takes from 
it that thin inner rind which lies between the coarser bark and 
the wood of the tree. This being steeped, and afterwards 
pounded in a mortar, until reduced to a pulp, is made into 
paper, 3 resembling (in substance) that which is manufactured 
from cotton, but quite black. When ready for use, he has it 
cut into pieces of money of different sizes, nearly square, but 

1 The prodigious quantity of silk produced in China is matter of 

3 This is, perhaps, the only instance in which our author relaxes from 
the general gravity of his style, and condescends to be witty. It is not 
in the earlier texts. 

* The accounts given by travellers of the vegetable and other sub 
stances from which paper is manufactured in China vary considerably, 
and it would appear that in different provinces different materials are 
employed. The most common, and at the same time the least probable 
assertion is, that it is made from the soft inner bark of the bamboo cane 
(arundo bambos) ; but Du Halde informs us that it is not from the bark, 
but from the substance, that paper is made. Du Halde quotes the 
authority of a Chinese book, which relates that a certain ancient emperor 
" fit faire un excellent papier du chanvre . . . que dans la province 
de Fokien il se fait de tendres bambous ; (et) que dans les provinces du 
nord, on y ernploie Vtcorce des muriers" P. 240. 

Paper Money of the Tartar Princes 203 

somewhat longer than they are wide. Of these, the smallest 
pass for a denier tournois; the next size for a Venetian silver 
groat; others for two, five, and ten groats; others for one, two, 
three, and as far as ten besants of gold. 1 The coinage of this 
paper money is authenticated with as much form and ceremony 
as if it were actually of pure gold or silver; for to each note a 
number of officers, specially appointed, not only subscribe 
their names, but affix their signets also; and when this has 
been regularly done by the whole of them, the principal officer, 
deputed by his majesty, having dipped into vermilion the 
royal seal committed to his custody, stamps with it the piece 
of paper, so that the form of the seal tinged with the vermilion 
remains impressed upon it, 2 by which it receives full authen 
ticity as current money, and the act of counterfeiting it is 
punished as a capital offence. 3 When thus coined in large 
quantities, this paper currency is circulated in every part of 
the grand khan s dominions; nor dares any person, at the 
peril of his life, refuse to accept it in payment. All his subjects 
receive it without hesitation, because, wherever their business 
may call them, they can dispose of it again in the purchase of 
merchandise they may have occasion for; such as pearls, 
jewels, gold, or silver. With it, in short, every article may be 
procured. 4 

1 The grosso or gros is the drachma or dram, being the eighth part of 
an ounce of silver, and the coin should, if of full weight, be equivalent 
to about eightpence of our money. The picciolo tornese is the denier or 
tenth part of the dram of silver, and consequently equal to four-fifths of 
our penny. As the former is the tsien or mas, so the latter is the fen or 
candorin, of the Chinese reckoning. Upon the same principle, ten grossi 
or tsien constitute the leang or tael, which is valued at six shillings and 
eightpence. It may be necessary to observe, that the French missionaries 
apply the term of denier to the small Chinese coin of base metal, named 
caxa by the Portuguese and cash by the English, of which a thousand are 
equal to the tael. The besant, a gold coin of the Greek empire, is equiva 
lent, as has already been observed, to the Venetian sequin. 

a " La matiere dont on se sert," says De Guignes fils, " pour imprimer 
avec les cachets, est composee de couleur rouge, melee avec de 1 huile; 
on la tient renfermee dans un vase de porcelaine destine a cet usage, et 
convert avec soin de peur qu elle ne se desseche." Voy. Peking, etc. 
torn. ii. p. 230. 

* " Ceux qui en feront de fausse," (says the inscription on paper money 
issued by the Ming,) " auront la teste coupee." Du Halde, torn. ii. p. 
1 68, planche. 

4 According to P. Gaubil, paper money had already been current at 
Pekin, under the grand khan Oktai, who himself only imitated what had 
been practised by the dynasty that preceded the Yuen or family of 
Jengiz-khan. C est cette annee (1234) qu on fit la monnoie de papier; 
les billets s appelloient tchao. Le sceau du pou-tchin-se, ou tresorier- 
g6neral de la province, etoit empreint dessus, et il y en avoit de tout 
valeur. Cette monnoie avoit dej& couru sous les princes de Kin." 

204 Travels of Marco Polo 

Several times in the course of the year, large caravans of 
merchants arrive with such articles as have just been men 
tioned, together with gold tissues, which they lay before 
the grand khan. He thereupon calls together twelve experi 
enced and skilful persons, selected for this purpose, whom he 
commands to examine the articles with great care, and to fix 
the value at which they should be purchased. Upon the sum 
at which they have been thus conscientiously appraised he 
allows a reasonable profit, and immediately pays for them with 
this paper; to which the owners can have no objection, because, 
as has been observed, it answers the purpose of their own dis 
bursements; and even though they should be inhabitants of 
a country where this kind of money is not current, they invest 
the amount in other articles of merchandise suited to their 
own markets. 1 When any persons happen to be possessed of 
paper money which from long use has become damaged, they 
carry it to the mint, where, upon the payment of only three 
per cent., they may receive fresh notes in exchange. 2 Should 

(Observ. Chronol. p. 192.) By Du Halde we are informed that its estab 
lishment was attempted also by the first prince of the dynasty that suc 
ceeded the Mungals; and he has given an engraving of the billets, from 
specimens still preserved by the Chinese with superstitious care, as relics 
of a monarch who relieved them from a foreign yoke. When he adds, 
" On 1 avoit employe avec aussi peu de succes sous la dynastie de Yuen/ 
the assertion may be doubted; because the success of KublaFs financial 
measures, oppressive as they were, would not, if at all noticed in the 
Chinese records, be impartially stated. It will be seen, on reference to 
note *, p. 29, that an attempt was made by a Moghul ruler of Persia, 
the grand-nephew of Kublai, to introduce a system of paper currency 
in his dominions, at the period when the Polo family, returning from 
China, resided at his court ; and that, upon a revolution which deprived 
him of the throne, this measure constituted one of the criminal charges 
against him. In Malcolm s History of Persia (vol. if p. 430), the reader 
will find several curious facts and judicious observations connected with 
this subject, which strongly tend to confirm the statements of our author; 
and it there appears indubitably, from the native historians, that a 
minister on the part of the emperor of China and Tartary had arrived 
at the court of Persia about this period, and been consulted respecting 
the currency. 

1 In most states the issue of government paper is the resource of an 
exhausted treasury; but Kublai s plan seems not to have been confined 
to the substitution of paper for cash in the public disbursements, but to 
have gone the length of endeavouring, by the operation of a forced cur 
rency, to draw all the specie and bullion 01 the country into his exchequer; 
for, although it is not expressly asserted, it is not improbable that the 
merchandise which he monopolized in the manner described, and paid 
for with his notes, was by him disposed of for gold and silver. In Siam, 
and many other countries of the further East, the king is the principal 
merchant of his dominions; and no individual can purchase a cargo, 
until his majesty s agent has exercised the right of pre-emption. 

z Our author seems to consider this charge of three per cent, for renew 
ing the decayed notes as no more than what was reasonable, and to 

The Council of Twelve 205 

any be desirous of procuring gold or silver for the purposes of 
manufacture, such as of drinking-cups, girdles,, or other articles 
wrought of these metals, they in like manner apply at the mint, 
and for their paper obtain the bullion they require. 1 All his 
majesty s armies are paid with this currency, which is to them 
of the same value as if it were gold or silver. Upon these 
grounds, it may certainly be affirmed that the grand khan has 
a more extensive command of treasure than any other sovereign 
in the universe. 



THE grand khan selects twelve noblemen of high rank and 
consequence (as has been mentioned), whose duty it is to 
decide upon every point respecting the army; such as the 
removal of troops from one station to another; the change of 
officers commanding them; the employment of a force where 
it may be judged necessary; and the numbers which it may be 
proper to detach upon any particular service, according to the 
degree of its importance. Besides these objects, it is their 
business to distinguish between officers who have given proofs 
of valour in combat, and those who have shown themselves 
base and cowardly, in order to advance the former and to de 
grade the latter. Thus, if the commander of a thousand has 
been found to conduct himself in an unbecoming manner, this 
tribunal, considering him to be unworthy of the rank he held, 

explain the whole system of extortion with complacency, as affording 
a proof of the consummate policy and grand resources of his master. 
It appears that the dynasty of the Ming was less exorbitant, and de 
manded only two per cent. Josaphat Barbaro, when he was at Asof in 
the Crimea, about the year 1450, was informed by an intelligent Tartar, 
who had been on an embassy to Cataio or China, that, " in quel luogo si 
spende moneta di carta; laquale ogni anno e mutata con nuova stampa 
et la moneta vecchia in capo delP anno si porta alia zecca, ove & chi 
laporta e data altrettanta della nuova e bella; pagando tutta via due 
per cento di moneta d argento buona, et la moneta vecchia si butta nel 
fuoco." Viaggio alia Persia, etc. p. 44, i2mo. 

1 This scheme of finance having the tendency of depriving the manu 
factures in gold and silver of the materials of their trade, which were 
drawn out of the market by its vortex, a remedy became necessary for 
so serious an inconvenience, and the demands were accordingly supplied 
from the treasurv. 

206 Travels of Marco Polo 

reduce him to the command of an hundred men; or, on the 
contrary, if he has displayed such qualities as give claim to 
promotion, they appoint him commander of ten thousand. 
All this, however, is done with the knowledge and subject to 
the approval of his majesty, to whom they report their opinion 
of the officer s merit or demerit, and who, upon confirming 
their decision, grants to him who is promoted to the command 
of ten thousand men (for example) the tablet or warrant 
belonging to his rank, as before described; and also confers on 
him large presents, in order to excite others to merit the same 

The tribunal composed of these twelve nobles is named 
Thai, denoting a supreme court, as being responsible to no 
other than the sovereign. 1 Besides this, there is another 
tribunal, likewise of twelve nobles, appointed for the super 
intendence of everything that respects the government of the 
thirty-four provinces of the empire. These have in Kanbalu 
a large and handsome palace or court, containing many 
chambers and halls. For the business of each province there 
is a presiding law-officer, together with several clerks, who 
have their respective apartments in the court, and there 
transact whatever business is necessary to be done for the 
province to which they belong, according to the directions 
they receive from the tribunal of twelve. These have authority 
to make choice of persons for the governments of the several 
provinces, whose names are presented to the grand khan for 
confirmation of their appointments and delivery of the tablets 
of gold or of silver appropriated to their ranks. They have also 
the superintendence of every matter that regards the collec 
tion of the revenue, both from land and customs, together with 
its disposal, and have the control of every other department of 
the state; with the exception only of what relates to the army. 2 

* Thai is evidently the tay (No. 1121) of De Guignes Chinese Diction 
ary, which he renders by " eminens, altus." The usual Chinese term 
for this tribunal denotes its military functions, but the name in the text 
is expressly said to refer to its supremacy as a court, which the word 
thai or tay directly implies. 

8 This grand tribunal for the civil administration of the empire appears 
to have united in Kublai s time the objects of two of those six which now 
constitute the official government. " La fonction de la premiere de ces 
cours souveraines qui s appellent Lij pou, est de fournir des mandarins 
pour toutes les provinces de 1 empire, de veiller sur leur conduite, d exam- 
iner leurs bonnes ou mauvaises qualitez, d en rendre compte a 1 empereur, 
etc," " La seconde cour souveraine, appellee hou pott, c est-a-dire, 
grand tresorier du roy, a la surintendance des finances, et a le soin du 
domaine, des tresors,de la depense, et des revenus de 1 empereur, etc. 

The Imperial Roads and Stations 207 

This tribunal is named Sing, implying that it is a second high 
court, 1 and, like the other, responsible only to the grand khan. 
But the former tribunal, named Thai, which has the adminis 
tration of military affairs, is regarded as superior in rank and 
dignity to the latter. 2 



FROM the city of Kanbalu there are many roads leading to 
the different provinces, and upon each of these, that is to say, 
upon every great high road, at the distance of twenty-five or 
thirty miles, accordingly as the towns happen to be situated, 
there are stations, with houses of accommodation for travellers, 
called yamb or post-houses. 3 These are large and handsome 

Pour Taider dans ce prodigieux detail, elle a quatorze tribunaux subal- 
ternes pour les affaires des quatorze provinces dont est compose 1 empire; 
car la province de Pe-tche-li etant la province de la cour, . . . jouit en 
beaucoup de choses des prerogatives de la cour et de la maison de 1 em- 
pereur." (Du Halde, torn. ii. p. 23.) Besides these fifteen provinces 
of the modern empire (or sixteen including the island of Hainan), Kublaii 
had under his government all the kingdoms possessed by his family 
before their conquest of China. In this sense it is that pur author speaks 
of thirty- four provinces as under the jurisdiction of this tribunal. 

1 The Chinese terms that present themselves as corresponding in sound 
to this of singh, and having at the same time an appropriate signification, 
are sing (No. 2938 of the Dictionary), which is rendered by " advertere, 
cognoscere," and sing (6606), by " examinare, considerare; both of 
which, if they can be said to differ in sense, are completely applicable to 
the nature of a high court of justice; more so, perhaps, than tsing (3947), 
44 claritas, splendor," or tsing (7698), rectum, bonum, perfectum." 
That it should have received its appellation, according to the phrase in 
Ramusio s text, from the circumstance of its being second to any other 
tribunal, is not probable in itself, nor justified by any analogy of sound. 

* In modern times, on the contrary, precedence is given to the civil 
departments, and the Ping-pu or war tribunal ranks only as fourth of 
the six high courts. That it should have been otherwise under the 
government of a monarch who held the empire of China by the sword, 
and that in his estimation the department of the army should be para 
mount to all others, is what might be expected. 

8 This word, which in Ramusio s text is printed latnb, we find to be 
ianli in the Basle edition, ianbi in the older Latin, and iamb, or, as we 
should write it, yamb, in the B.M. manuscript; and there explained by 
the term of " mansiones equorum." It is evident therefore that the / 
for i, in the Italian, is a mistake of transcription, and we may conclude 
the word to be the Persian yam or idm which Meninski translates, " sta- 
tionarius, veredus seu veredarius equus," but which, in the journal ol 

2o8 Travels of Marco Polo 

buildings, having several well-furnished apartments, hung 
with silk, and provided with everything suitable to persons 
of rank. Even kings may be lodged at these stations in a 
becoming manner, 1 as every article required may be obtained 
from the towns and strong places in the vicinity; and for 
some of them the court makes regular provision. At each 
station four hundred good horses are kept in constant readi 
ness, in order that all messengers going and coming upon the 
business of the grand khan, and all ambassadors, may have 
relays, and, leaving their jaded horses, be supplied with fresh 
ones. 2 Even in mountainous districts, remote from the great 
roads, where there were no villages, and the towns are far 
distant from each other, his majesty has equally caused build 
ings of the same kind to be erected, furnished with every 
thing necessary, and provided with the usual establishment of 
horses. He sends people to dwell upon the spot, in order to 
cultivate the land, and attend to the service of the post; by 
which means large villages are formed. In consequence of 
these regulations, ambassadors to the court, and the royal 
messengers, go and return through every province and king 
dom of the empire with the greatest convenience and facility; 3 

Shah Rokh s ambassadors, is made to denote the inn or post-house (agree 
ably to our author s use of it), and not the post-horses. Meninski 
remarks that it belongs to the dialect spoken in Korasmia, which at the 
period of its conquest by Jengiz-khan and his sons was amongst the most 
civilized countries of Asia, and the most likely to have had establish 
ments of that nature. By the Chinese their post-houses are termed 
tchan or chan, and twenty-five or thirty miles is said to be their distance 
from each other. The Persian marhileh and manzil equally signify, 
" a stage or halting-place, after a day s journey (of about thirty miles)." 
The aradfjibs, statio, mansio, of the Greeks, was of the same nature. 

1 By kings are here meant persons of that rank which the Chinese 
term Vang, and the Portuguese Regulo. They may be compared to the 
Princes of the German empire, or to the Hindu Rajas under the Moghul 

2 To those who form their judgment of the ancient establishments of 
the Chinese empire from modern descriptions, this number of horses at 
each station, or the end of each day s ordinary journey, may appear im 
probable; but the assertion is justified by the authority of the same 
journal that has so often served to throw light upon our author s rela 
tions, although written subsequently to his time by about a century 

and a half. 

3 By ambassadors, in Chinese history and accounts of China, we are 
to understand not only the representatives of foreign princes, to whom 
we confine the term, but every petty vassal of the empire, or deputy of 
such vassal, who repairs to the court, invested with a public character. 
Those of the first mentioned class were in the practice of taking under 
their protection, as a part of their suite, large bodies of traders, who by that 
means had an opportunity of introducing their goods into the country, 
in contravention cf the established regulations, but obviously with the 
connivance of the governors of frontier towns, and perhaps of the court 

Great Population of the Country 209 

in all which the grand khan exhibits a superiority over every 
other emperor, king, or human being. In his dominions no 
fewer than two hundred thousand horses are thus employed 
in the department of the post, and ten thousand buildings, 
with suitable furniture, are kept up. 1 It is indeed so wonder 
ful a system, and so effective in its operation, as it is scarcely 
possible to describe. If it be questioned how the population 
of the country can supply sufficient numbers for these duties, 
and by what means they can be victualled, we may answer, 
that all the idolaters, and likewise the Saracens, keep six, 
eight, or ten women, according to their circumstances, by 
whom they have a prodigious number of children; 2 some of 
them as many as thirty sons capable of following their fathers 
in arms; whereas with us a man has only one wife, and even 
although she should prove barren, he is obliged to pass his life 
with her, and is by that means deprived of the chance of raising 
a family. Hence it is that our population is so much inferioi 
to theirs. With regard to food, there is no deficiency of it, 
for these people, especially the Tartars, Cathaians, and inhabi 
tants of the province of Manji (or Southern China), subsist, for 
the most part, upon rice, panicum, and millet; which three 
grains yield, in their soil, an hundred measures for one. 3 
Wheat, indeed, does not yield a similar increase, and bread not 
being in use with them, it is eaten only in the form of vermi 
celli or of pastry. The former grains they boil in milk or stew 
with their meat. With them no spot of earth is suffered to 
lie idle, that can possibly be cultivated; and their cattle of 
different kinds multiply exceedingly, insomuch that when 
they take the field, there is scarcely an individual that does 

itself. This is avowed by Shah Rokh s ambassadors, and particularly 
described by Benedict Goez, who himself travelled in the capacity of a 

1 An inconsistency in the numbers, not easy to reconcile, presents 
itself in this place; for if by ten thousand buildings are meant so many 
post-houses, the total number of horses, instead of being two hundred 
thousand, should amount to four millions. It is probable that a cipher 
should be cut off from the former, and that, for ten, we should read one 
thousand, which would bring the error within moderate bounds; or, it 
may be intended to include in that number the stations, at short inter 
vals, for couriers on foot. 

* The modern accounts of Chinese polygamy or concubinage lead us 
to suppose that it is not common amongst the lower classes of society. 

1 In Sumatra the rate of produce of up-land rice is reckoned at eighty, 
and of low-land, at an hundred and twenty for one. This increase, so 
disproportionate to what is known in Europe, I have ventured to attri 
bute rather to the saving of grain in the mode of sowing, than to any 
superior fertility of soil. See Hist, of Sumatra, third edit. p. 77. See 
also Voy. a Peking, etc. par De Guignes fils, toro, iii. p. 332. 

2 1 o Travels of Marco Polo 

not carry with him six, eight, or more horses, for his own 
personal use. From all this may be seen the causes of so 
large a population, and the circumstances that enable them 
to provide so abundantly for their subsistence. 

In the intermediate space between the post-houses, there 
are small villages settled at the distance of every three miles, 
which may contain, one with another, about forty cottages. 
In these are stationed the foot messengers, likewise employed 
in the service of his majesty. 1 They wear girdles round their 
waists, to which several small bells are attached, in order 
that their coming may be perceived at a distance; and as 
they run only three miles, that is, from one of these foot- 
stations to another next adjoining, the noise serves to give 
notice of their approach, and preparation is accordingly made 
by a fresh courier to proceed with the packet instantly upon 
the arrival of the former. 2 Thus it is so expeditiously con 
veyed from station to station, that in the course of two days 
and two nights his majesty receives distant intelligence that 
in the ordinary mode could not be obtained in less than ten 
days ; 3 and it often happens that in the fruit season, what 
is gathered in the morning at Kanbalu is conveyed to the 
grand khan, at Shan-du, by the evening of the following day; 
although the distance is generally considered as ten days 
journey. At each of these three-mile stations there is a clerk, 
whose business it is to note the day and hour at which the 
one courier arrives and the other departs; which is likewise 
done at all the post-houses. Besides this, officers are directed 
to pay monthly visits to every station, in order to examine 
into the management of them, and to punish those couriers 

1 " Upon the road," says Bell, " we met with many turrets, called 
post-houses, erected at certain distances from one another. . . . These 
places are guarded by a few soldiers, who run a- foot, from one post to 
another, with great speed, carrying letters or despatches that concern 
the emperor. . . . The distance of one post-house from another is 
usually five Chinese li or miles. ... 1 compute five of their miles to be 
about two and a half English." Vol. i. p. 340. 

2 The use of bells for this purpose would seem, from what is stated by 
De Guignes, to be now confined to the messengers on horseback. (Tom. 
ii. p. 223.) It is likely, however, that the foot-messengers have some 
similar mode of making known their approach. 

3 An active man may, with perfect ease, run three miles at the rate of 
eight miles in the hour, and consequently one hundred and ninety-two 
miles might be performed by successive couriers in twenty- four hours, 
or nearly four hundred miles in two days and nights: but if by the 
" ordinary mode " is to be understood ten stages of thirty miles, it is 
only necessary that three hundred miles should be performed in that 
time, which is at the rate of six miles in the hour. 

Service of the Public Roads 211 

who have neglected to use proper diligence. All these couriers 
are not only exempt from the (capitation) tax, but also receive 
from his majesty good allowances. The horses employed in 
this service are not attended with any (direct) expense; the 
cities, towns, and villages in the neighbourhood being obliged 
to furnish, and also to maintain them. By his majesty s 
command the governors of the cities cause examination to be 
made by well informed persons, as to the number of horses 
the inhabitants, individually, are capable of supplying. The 
same is done with respect to the towns and villages; and ac 
cording to their means the requisition is enforced; those on 
each side of the station contributing their due proportion. 
The charge of the maintenance of the horses is afterwards 
deducted by the cities out of the revenue payable to the grand 
khan; inasmuch as the sum for which each inhabitant would 
be liable is commuted for an equivalent of horses or share of 
horses, which he maintains at the nearest adjoining station. 1 

It must be understood, however, that of the four hundred 
horses the whole are not constantly on service at the station, 
but only two hundred, which are kept there for the space of 
a month, during which period the other half are at pasture; 
and at the beginning of the month, these in their turn take 
the duty, whilst the former have time to recover their flesh; 
each alternately relieving the other. Where it happens that 
there is a river or a lake which the couriers on foot, or the 
horsemen, are under the necessity of passing, the neighbour 
ing cities are obliged to keep three or four boats in continual 
readiness for that purpose; and where there is a desert of 
several days journey, that does not admit of any habitation, 
the city on its borders is obliged to furnish horses to such 
persons as ambassadors to and from the court, that they may 
be enabled to pass the desert, and also to supply provisions 
to them and their suite; but cities so circumstanced have a 
remuneration from his majesty. Where the post stations lie 
at a distance from the great road, the horses are partly those 
of his majesty, and are only in part furnished by the cities 
and towns of the district. 

When it is necessary that the messengers should proceed 

1 It is not easy to comprehend to whom it is meant that this establish 
ment was not attended with expense. If deducted from the amount of 
taxes to which the inhabitants were otherwise liable, it was ultimately 
a charge upon the revenue of the monarch. The whole is far from being 
clear, but the probable meaning is, that it was without expense, ulti 
mately, to the individuals who performed the duty. 

2 1 2 Travels of Marco Polo 

with extraordinary despatch, as in the cases of giving informa 
tion of disturbance in any part of the country, the rebellion 
of a chief, or other important matter, they ride two hundred, 
or sometimes two hundred and fifty miles in the course of a 
day. -On such occasions they carry with them the tablet of 
the gerfalcon as a signal of the urgency of their business and 
the necessity for despatch. .And when there are two mes 
sengers, they take their departure together from the same place, 
mounted upon good fleet horses; and they gird their bodies 
tight, bind a cloth round their heads, and push their horses 
to the greatest speed. They continue thus till they come to 
the next post-house, at twenty-five miles distant, 1 where they 
find two other horses, fresh and in a state for work; they 
spring upon them without taking any repose, and changing 
in the same manner at every stage, until the day closes, they 
perform a journey of two hundred and fifty miles. In cases 
of great emergency they continue their course during the 
night, and if there should be no moon, they are accompanied 
to the next station by persons on foot, who run before them 
with lights; when of course they do not make the same ex 
pedition as in the day-time, the light-bearers not being able 
to exceed a certain pace. Messengers qualified to undergo this 
extraordinary degree of fatigue are held in high estimation. 
Now we will leave this subject, and I will tell you of a great 
act of benevolence which the grand khan performs twice 



THE grand khan sends every year his commissioners to ascer 
tain whether any of his subjects have suffered in their crops of 
corn from unfavourable weather, from storms of wind or 
violent rains, or by locusts, worms, or any other plague; and 
in such cases he not only refrains from exacting the usual 
tribute of that year, but furnishes them from his granaries 
with so much corn as is necessary for their subsistence, as well 
as for sowing their land. With this view, in times of great 

1 [In other MSS. it is thirty-five miles.] 

Benevolence of the Grand Khan 2 1 3 

plenty, he causes large purchases to be made of such kinds of 
grain as are most serviceable to them, which is stored in 
granaries provided for the purpose in the several provinces, 
and managed with such care as to ensure its keeping for three 
or four years without damage. 1 It is his command, that these 
granaries be always kept full, in order to provide against times 
of scarcity; and when, in such seasons, he disposes of the grain 
for money, he requires for four measures no more than the 
purchaser would pay for one measure in the market. In like 
manner where there has been a mortality of cattle in any dis 
trict, he makes good the loss to the sufferers from those belong 
ing to himself, which he has received as his tenth of produce in 
other provinces. All his thoughts, indeed, are directed to the 
important object of assisting the people whom he governs, 
that they may be enabled to live by their labour and improve 
their substance. 2 We must not omit to notice a peculiarity of 
the grand khan, that where an accident has happened by 
lightning to any herd of cattle, flock of sheep, or other domestic 
animals, whether the property of one or more persons, and 
however large the herd may be, he does not demand the tenth 
of the increase of such cattle during three years; and so also 
if a ship laden with merchandise has been struck by lightning, 
he does not collect from her any custom or share of her cargo, 
considering the accident as an ill omen. God. he says, has 
shown himself to be displeased with the owner of the goods, 
and he is unwilling that property bearing the mark of divine 
wrath should enter his treasury. 3 

1 " In such times (of scarcity) the emperor of China," says Staunton, 
. . . " orders the granaries to be opened; he remits the taxes to those 
who are visited by misfortunes ; he affords assistance to enable them to 
retrieve their affairs." (Vol. ii. p. 89.) " In China," says Barrow, 
" there are no great farmers who store their grain to throw into the mar 
ket hi seasons of scarcity. In such seasons the only resource is that of 
the government opening its magazines, and restoring to the people that 
portion of their crop which it had demanded from them as the price 
of its protection." The same circumstance is noticed by other travellers. 

2 The edicts of the Chinese emperors, even of such as were kept by 
their eunuchs and other favourites in profound ignorance of the affairs 
of their empire, are filled with sentiments expressive of the most tender 
and anxious concern for the welfare of their people, whom they term 
their children. In Kubla i s actions there was probably no affectation 
of philanthropy; but from his general character it may be suspected 
that a regard for his own interest was the motive that actuated his bene 
volence to his Chinese subjects, of whose loyalty he always showed him 
self suspicious. 

8 No direct proof of the existence of this superstition in China has 
presented itself. That thunder and lightning are regarded with feelings 
of extraordinary terror, is evident from the frightful representations of 
the deity who presides over, and is supposed to wield this engine of 
divine wrath. 

214 Travels of Marco Polo 



THERE is another regulation adopted by the grand khan, 
equally ornamental and useful. At both sides of the public 
roads he causes trees to be planted, of a kind that become 
large and tall, and being only two paces asunder, they serve 
(besides the advantage of their shade in summer) to point out 
the road (when the ground is covered with snow); which is of 
great assistance and affords much comfort to travellers. 1 This 
is done along all the high roads, where the nature of the soil 
admits of plantation; but when the way lies through sandy 
deserts or over rocky mountains, where it is impossible to have 
trees, he orders stones to be placed and columns to be erected, 
as marks for guidance. He also appoints officers of rank, 
whose duty it is to see that all these are properly arranged and 
the roads constantly kept in good order. Besides the motives 
that have been assigned for these plantations, it may be added 
that the grand khan is the more disposed to make them, from 
the circumstance of his diviners and astrologers having declared 
that those who plant trees are rewarded with long life. 



THE greater part of the inhabitants of the province of Cathay 
drink a sort of wine made from rice mixed with a variety of 

1 " II y a de certaines provinces," says Du Halde, " ou les grandes 
chemins sont comme autant de grandes allees, bordees d arbres fort 
hauts." (Tom. ii. p. 52.) De Guignes describes the high roads of the 
provinces through which he travelled, as generally planted with trees. 
(Tom. ii. pp. 215, 216.) The paces by which the distance of the trees 
is estimated by our author, must be understood as geometric or Roman 
paces of five feet; and even on that scale the interval is too small. It 
is not improbable that he may in this instance, as well as in other parts 
of the work, have expressed himself in the measures of the country, 
which are rendered by Italian terms not strictly corresponding; or the 
passage may have been corrupted. The explanatory words between 
brackets are added in the translation. 

Stones Used for Burning 215 

spices and drugs. This beverage, or wine as it may be termed^ 
is so good and well flavoured that they do not wish for better. 
It is clear, bright, and pleasant to the taste, and being (made) 
very hot, has the quality of inebriating sooner than any other. 
Throughout this province there is found a sort of black 
stone, which they dig out of the mountains, where it runs in 
veins. When lighted, it burns like charcoal, and retains the 
fire much better than wood; insomuch that it may be pre 
served during the night, and in the morning be found still burn 
ing. These stones do not flame, excepting a little when first 
lighted, but during their ignition give out a considerable heat. 
It is true there is no scarcity of wood in the country, but the 
multitude of inhabitants is so immense, and their stoves and 
baths, which they are continually heating, so numerous, that 
the quantity could not supply the demand; for there is no 
person who does not frequent the warm bath at least three 
times in the week, and during the winter daily, if it is in their 
power. Every man of rank or wealth has one in his house for 
his own use; and the stock of wood must soon prove inadequate 
to such consumption; whereas these stories may be had in the 
greatest abundance, and at a cheap rate. 1 



IT has been already stated that the grand khan distributes 
large quantities of grain to his subjects (in the provinces). We 

1 This circumstantial account of the use made by the Chinese of pit 
or fossil coal, at a period when its properties were so little known in 
Europe, will deservedly be thought an interesting record of the fact, as 
well as a proof of undoubted genuineness and originality on the part of 
our author. " Les mines de charbon de pierre sont en si grande quantite 
dans les provinces," says Du Halde, " qu il n y a apparemment aucun 
royaume au monde, ou il y en ait tant, et de si abondantes. II s en 
trouve sans nombre dans les montagnes des provinces de Chen-si, de 
Chan-si, et de Pe-che-li: aussi s en sert-on pour tous les fourneaux des 
ouvriers, dans les cuisines de toutes les maisons, et dans les hypocaustes 
des chambres qu on allume tout 1 hyver. Sans un pareil secours, ces 
peuples auroient peine a vivre dans des pays si froids, ou le bois de 
chauffage est rare, et par consequent tres-cher." (Tom. i. p. 29.) 

Stoves," says Staunton, " are common in large buildings. They are 
fed from without with fossil coal, found plentifully in the neighbourhood." 

Vol. ii. p. 338. 

216 Travels of Marco Polo 

shall now speak of his great charity to and provident care of 
the poor in the city of Kanbalu. Upon his being apprised of 
any respectable family, that had lived in easy circumstances, 
being by misfortunes reduced to poverty, or who, in conse 
quence of infirmities, are unable to work for their living or to 
raise a supply of any kind of grain : to a family in that situa 
tion he gives what is necessary for their year s consumption, 
and at the customary period they present themselves before 
the officers who manage the department of his majesty s 
expenses and who reside in a palace where that business is 
transacted, to whom they deliver a statement in writing of the 
quantity furnished to them in the preceding year, according 
to which they receive also for the present. He provides in 
like manner for their clothing, which he has the means of doing 
from his tenths of wool, silk, and hemp. These materials he 
has woven into the different sorts of cloth, in a house erected 
for that purpose, where every artisan is obliged to work one 
day in the week for his majesty s service. Garments made of 
stuffs thus manufactured he orders to be given to the poor 
families above described, as they are wanted for their winter 
and their summer dresses. He also has clothing prepared for 
his armies, and in every city has a quantity of woollen cloth 
woven, which is paid for from the amount of the tenths levied 
at the place. 1 

It should be known that the Tartars, when they followed 
their original customs, and had not yet adopted the religion of 
the idolaters, were not in the practice of bestowing alms, and 
when a necessitous man applied to them, they drove him away 
with injurious expressions, saying, " Begone with your com 
plaint of a bad season which God has sent you; had he loved 
you, as it appears he loves me, you would have prospered as I 
do." But since the wise men of the idolaters, and especially 
the baksis, already mentioned, have represented to his majesty 
that providing for the poor is a good work and highly accept 
able to their deities, he has relieved their wants in the manner 
stated, and at his court none are denied food who come to ask 
it. Not a day passes in which there are not distributed, by the 
regular officers, twenty thousand vessels of rice, millet, and 

1 At the present day the manufacture of woollen cloth or stuffs in 
China is very inconsiderable, but it may have been affected in the course 
of several centuries by the importations from Europe, which are known 
to have progressively increased. For its existence in the seventeenth 
century we have the authority of the missionaries. 

The Astrologers of Kanbalu 2 1 7 

panlcum. 1 By reason of this admirable and astonishing 
liberality which the grand khan exercises towards the poor. 
the people all adore him as a divinity. 2 



THERE are in the city of Kanbalu, amongst Christians, 
Saracens, and Cathaians, about five thousand astrologers and 
prognosticate^, 3 for whose food and clothing the grand khan 
provides in the same manner as he does for the poor families 
above mentioned, and who are in the constant exercise of 
their art. They have their astrolabes, upon which are de 
scribed the planetary signs, the hours (at which they pass the 
meridian), and their several aspects for the whole year. The 
astrologers (or almanac-makers) of each distinct sect annually 
proceed to the examination of their respective tables, in order 
to ascertain from thence the course of the heavenly bodies, 
and their relative positions for every lunation. They dis 
cover therein what the state of the weather shall be, from the 
paths and configurations of the planets in the different signs, 
and thence foretell the peculiar phenomena of each month: 
that in such a month, for instance, there shall be thunder and 
storms; in such another, earthquakes; in another, strokes of 
lightning and violent rains; in another, diseases, mortality, 
wars, discords, conspiracies. As they find the matter in their 
astrolabes, so they declare it will come to pass; adding, how 
ever, that God, according to his good pleasure, may do more 
or less than they have set down. They write their predic 
tions for the year upon certain small squares, which are called 
takuini, and these they sell, for a groat apiece, to all persons 
who are desirous of peeping into futurity. Those whose pre- 

1 Purchas translates scudelle by " crowns " (ecus), and supposes thai 
grain to the amount of twenty thousand of that coin was distributed 
daily; but the dictionaries tell us that the Italianscw^Wais the French 
ecuelle, a pipkin or porringer; and this meaning is the more simple and 
natural of the two. [Instead of this, the early Latin and French texts 
published by the French Geographical Society, say simply that thirty 
thousand people were thus fed at court, and the Italian text of Boni 
makes the number of persons to be three hundred thousand.] 

a " He appears to his subjects," says Staunton, " as standing almost 
in the place of Providence in their favour." -Vol. ii. p. 90. 

8 To account for this extraordinary number of astrologers, we must 
suppose that the priests of every description were adepts in the occult art. 

21 8 Travels of Marco Polo 

dictions are found to be the more generally correct are esteemed 
the most perfect masters of their art, and are consequently the 
most honoured. 1 When any person forms the design of exe 
cuting some great work, of performing a distant journey in the 
way of commerce, or of commencing any other undertaking, 
and is desirous of knowing what success may be likely to attend 
it, he has recourse to one of these astrologers, and, informing 
him that he is about to proceed on such an expedition, inquires 
in what disposition the heavens appear to be at the time. 
The latter thereupon tells him, that before he can answer, it is 
necessary he should be informed of the year, the month, and 
the hour in which he was born; and that, having learned these 
particulars, he will then proceed to ascertain in what respects 
the constellation that was in the ascendant at his nativity 
corresponds with the aspect of the celestial bodies at the time 
of making the inquiry. Upon this comparison he grounds his 
prediction of the favourable or unfavourable termination of 
the adventure. 2 

It should be observed that the Tartars compute their time 
by a cycle of twelve years ; to the first of which they give the 
name of the lion; to the second year, that of the ox; to the 
third, the dragon; to the fourth, the dog; and so of the rest, 
until the whole of the twelve have elapsed. When a person, 
therefore, is asked in what year he was born, he replies, In the 
course of the year of the lion, upon such a day, at such an hour 
and minute; all of which has been carefully noted by his 
parents in a book. Upon the completion of the twelve years 
of the cycle, they return to the first, and continually repeat 
the same series. 3 

1 In later times the publication of the Chinese almanac has been an 
affair of government, and none is circulated but under the sanction of 
the emperor; the astronomical part being computed by Europeans, and 
the astrological part invented by the Chinese. 

2 It appears that the astrologers of Pekin were not exempt from the 
suspicion of sometimes using flagitious means to make the events tally 
with their prophecies, of which the journal of Shah Rokh s ambassadors 
affords a remarkable instance. " Les astrologues du Khatai," they 
observe, " avoient pronostique que cette annee le palais de 1 empereur 
seroit endommage du feu, et cette prediction fut le sujet de cette illu 
mination. Les emirs (mandarins) s etant assembles, rempereur leur fit 
un festin, et les regala." Three months afterwards we find the follow 
ing passage: " La nuit suivante, par un decret de Dieu, le feu prit au 
nouveau palais de 1 empereur, non sans quelque soupgon de queique 
fourberie des astrologues. L appartement principal qui avoit quatre- 
vingt coudees de long et trente de large. ... fut entierement bruleV 

Pp. 9 12. 

3 " Les Tartares," says De Guignes, pere, " ont aussi un cycle de douze 
ans. Les denominations de chaque annee sont prises des noms de 

Religion of the Tartars 2 1 9 



As has already been observed, these people are idolaters, and 
for deities, each person has a tablet fixed up against a high 
part of the wall of his chamber, upon which is written a name, 
that serves to denote the high, celestial, and sublime God; and 
to this they pay daily adoration, with incense burning.* Lift 
ing up their hands and then striking their faces against the 
floor three times, 2 they implore from him the blessings of sound 
intellect and health of body; without any further petition. 
Below this, on the floor, they have a statue which they name 
Natigai, which they consider as the God of all terrestrial things 
or whatever is produced from the earth. They give him a wife 
and children, 3 and worship him in a similar manner, burning 
incense, raising their hands, and bending to the floor. To him 

differens animaux; ainsi Ton disoit 1 annee de^la souris, du bceuf, etc., 
pour dire la premiere ou la seconde annee; et a la fin des douze annees 
on recommencoit de la meme fa?on. Les Chinois pnt quelquefois fait 
usage de ce c} cle." (Hist, des Huns, torn. i. p. xlyii.) In the names of 
the years, as furnished by different writers, there is some variation, but 
according to the most modern of the authorities they are as follows: 
" the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, 
dog, and hog;" from whence it appears that our author s account of 
the cycle is not merely imperfect, but incorrect, if he really placed the 
names in the order in which they are given in the text. By the lion 
(as has already been shown in note 1 , p. 194) is meant the tiger; but 
this animal, instead of being the first of the series, is only the third, and 
should follow, instead of preceding the ox; nor does the dragon or the 
dog belong to those numerical years to which they are assigned. What 
he has said is fully sufficient to evince a general acquaintance with the 
Tartar calendar, and probably what he wrote or dictated amounted to 
this, that each of the twelve years bore the name of an animal, such as 
the lion, ox, dog, etc., without any intention of furnishing an exact list. 

1 The custom of paying adoration to a written tablet instead of the 
image or representation of a deity was properly Kataian rather than 
Tartar, but it might have been adopted by the latter people along with 
other Chinese practices, and especially by the emperor. The words 
inscribed are tien, heaven, hoang-tien, supreme heaven, shang-ti, sovereign 

a Sbattere i denti is literally to gnash the teeth or strike them against 
each other; but this is obviously a misapprehension of what was meant 
to express the act of prostration and striking the ground with the fore 
head. The prostrations before the throne or tablet of the emperor are 
three times three. 

8 Staunton speaks of the worship of Fo s wife and child in the Putala 
or temple of Zhehol (Jehol) in Tartary, vol. it. p. 258. 

22O Travels of Marco Polo 

they pray for seasonable weather, abundant crops, increase of 
family, and the like. They believe the soul to be immortal, in 
this sense, that immediately upon the death of a man, it enters 
into another body, and that accordingly as he has acted vir 
tuously or wickedly during his life, his future state will become, 
progressively, better or worse. 1 If he be a poor man, and has 
conducted himself worthily and decently, he will be re-born, 
in the first instance, from the womb of a gentlewoman, and 
become, himself, a gentleman; next, from the womb of a lady 
of rank, and become a nobleman; thus continually ascending 
in the scale of existence until he be united to the divinity. 
But if, on the contrary, being the son of a gentleman, he has 
behaved unworthily, he will, in his next state, be a clown, and 
at length a dog, continually descending to a condition more 
vile than the preceding. 2 

Their style of conversation is courteous; they salute each 
other politely, with countenances expressive of satisfaction, 3 
have an air of good breeding, and eat their victuals with par 
ticular cleanliness. To their parents they show the utmost 
reverence; but should it happen that a child acts disrespect 
fully to or neglects to assist his parents in their necessity, there 
is a public tribunal, whose especial duty it is to punish with 
severity the crime of filial ingratitude, when the circumstance 
is known. 4 Malefactors guilty of various crimes, who are 
apprehended and thrown into prison, are executed by strang 
ling; but such as remain till the expiration of three years, 
being the time appointed by his majesty for a general gaol 
delivery, and are then liberated, have a mark imprinted upon 
one of their cheeks, that they may be recognised. 5 

1 This is the Hindu doctrine of the metempsychosis, which, along with 
the schismatic religion of Buddha, was introduced into China (as the 
annals of that country inform us) about the year 65 of our era. It had 
not, however, (according to the elder De Guignes,) made any consider 
able) progress until the year 335, when the emperor then reigning took it 
under his protection. 

3 According to the Hindu belief the souls of men reanimate new bodies, 
" until by repeated regenerations all their sins are done away, and they 
attain such a degree of perfection as will entitle them to what is called 
mukti, eternal salvation, by which is understood a release from future 
transmigration, and an absorption in the nature of the Godhead." Wil- 
kins, Notes to Bhagvat Gita, p. 140. 

3 It is evidently of the Kataians, and not of the rude Tartars, that our 
author here speaks. 

4 " Un tils," says De Guignes, qui accuse son pere ou sa mere, 
meme avec raison, est puni par i exil." -Tom. iii. p. 117. 

5 The distinction in the degree of punishment between executing 
a criminal soon after condemnation, or at the regulated period, is fre 
quently adverted to in the Lettres ediftantes. 

Some Tartar Customs 221 

The present grand khan has prohibited all species of gam 
bling and other modes of cheating,, to which the people of this 
country are addicted more than any others upon earth; and 
as an argument for deterring them from the practice, he says 
to them (in his edict), " I subdued you by the power of my 
sword, and consequently whatever you possess belongs of 
right to me: if you gamble, therefore, you are sporting with 
my property." He does not, however, take anything arbi 
trarily in virtue of this right. The order and regularity ob 
served by all ranks of people, when they present themselves 
before his majesty, ought not to pass unnoticed. When they 
approach within half a mile of the place where he happens to 
be, they show their respect for his exalted character by assum 
ing a humble, placid, and quiet demeanour, insomuch that not 
the least noise, nor the voice of any person calling out, or even 
speaking aloud, is heard. 1 Every man of rank carries with him 
a small vessel, into which he spits, so long as he continues in 
the hall of audience, no one daring to spit on the floor; 2 and 
this being done, he replaces the cover, and makes a salutation. 
They are accustomed likewise to take with them handsome 
buskins made of white leather, and when they reach the court, 
but before they enter the hall (for which they wait a summons 
from the grand khan), they put on these white buskins, and give 
those in which they had walked to the care of the servants. 
This practice is observed that they may not soil the beautiful 
carpets, which are curiously wrought with silk and gold, and 
exhibit a variety of colours. 3 

1 This perfect silence at the court of Pekin is particularly noticed by 
Bell, who says: " As we advanced we found all the ministers of state, 
and officers belonging to the court, seated upon fur-cushions, cross-legged, 
before the hall in the open air; among these, places were appointed for 
the ambassador and his retinue, and in this situation we remained . . . 
till the emperor came into the hall. During this interval . . . not the 
least noise was heard from any quarter." (Vol. ii. p. 5.) Again he ob 
serves: By this time the hall was pretty full, and, what is surprising, 
there was not the least noise, hurry, or confusion. ... In short, the 
characteristic of the court of Pekin is order and decency, rather than 
grandeur and magnificence." P. 9. 

2 This kind of utensil is common in many parts of the East Indies, 
where it is commonly termed, from the Portuguese, a cuspidor. It 
might be inferred from hence that the practice then prevailed of masti 
cating something of the nature of betel. 

3 In the modern descriptions of Chinese furniture we do not find any 
notice taken of carpets, for which mats appear to be substituted; but 
it does not follow that they were equally disused in the palaces of Kublai , 
whose family were the conquerors of Persia and other countries of Asia, 
where the manufacture of this article of luxury was in perfection. Du 
Halde, however, in describing the capital city of the province of Shan-si, 

222 Travels of Marco Polo 




HAVING thus completed the account of the government and 
police of the province of Cathay and city of Kanbalu, as well 
as of the magnificence of the grand khan, we shall now proceed 
to speak of other parts of the empire. You must know then 
that the grand khan sent Marco as his ambassador to the 
west; and leaving Kanbalu, he travelled westward during full 
four months; we shall now tell you all he saw going and 

Upon leaving the capital and travelling ten miles, 1 you 
come to a river named Pulisangan, which discharges itself 
into the ocean, and is navigated by many vessels entering 
from thence, with considerable quantities of merchandise. 2 
Over this river there is a very handsome bridge of stone, 
perhaps unequalled by another in the world. Its length is 
three hundred paces, and its width eight paces; so that ten 
men can, without inconvenience, ride abreast. 3 It has 
twenty-four arches, supported by twenty-five piers erected in 

says: " Outre differences etoffes qui se fabriquent en cette ville, comme 
ailleurs, on y fait en particulier des tapis facon de Turquie, de quelque 
grandeur qu on les commande." Tom. i. p. 204. 

1 In the epitome of 1496 and subsequent Venice editions the words 
are, mesi x., ten months, instead of died miglia, ten miles; in which 
latter consistent sense the Basle edition agrees with Ramusio. The 
period also of our author s journey is extended from four to fourteen 
months, the one error having evidently given birth to the other. 

2 This river, the name of which is variously written Pulisangan, 
Pulisangium, Pulisachniz, Pulsaiichimz, and Paluisanguis, appears from 
the circumstances stated to be the Hoen-ho of the Jesuits map, which, 
uniting with another stream from the north-west, forms the Pe-ho or 
White River. This, in the lower part of its course, and to the distance 
of many miles from the Yellow Sea, into which it disembogues, is navig 
able for vessels of considerable burthen, although too rapid for that pur 
pose at the part where it crossed our author s route to the south-west. 
It may be remarked that in the Persian language the words puh-sangi 
signify the " stone bridge," and it is not improbable that the western 
people in the service of the emperor may have given this appellation to 
the place where a bridge of great celebrity was thrown over the river, 
which is here applied to the river itself. It will be found to occur in 
Elphinstone s Account of Caubul, p. 429, and in Ouseley s Ibn Haukul, 

p. 277- 

3 Ten horsemen could not draw up abreast in a less space than thirty 

feet, and might probably require forty when in motion. The paces 
here spoken of must therefore be geometric; and upon this calculation 
the bridge would be five hundred yards in length. 

River of Pulisangan 223 

the water, all of serpentine stone, 1 and built with great skill. 
On each side, and from one extremity to the other, there is a 
handsome parapet, formed of marble slabs and pillars arranged 
in a masterly style. At the commencement of the ascent 
the bridge is something wider than at the summit, but from 
the part where the ascent terminates, the sides run in straight 
lines and parallel to each other. 2 Upon the upper level there 
is a massive and lofty column, resting upon a tortoise of 
marble, and having near its base a large figure of a lion, with 
a lion also on the top. 3 Towards the slope of the bridge 
there is another handsome column or pillar, with its lion, at 
the distance of a pace and a half from the former; and all 
the spaces between one pillar and another, throughout the 
whole length of the bridge, are filled up with slabs of marble, 
curiously sculptured, and mortised into the next adjoining 
pillars, which are, in like manner, a pace and a half asunder, 
and equally surmounted with lions, 4 forming altogether a 
beautiful spectacle. These parapets serve to prevent accidents 

1 The serpent-stone, or serpentinstein of the Germans, is a well-known 
species, and considered as an inferior kind of jade. 

2 By P. Magalhanes, who particularly notices this description, our 
author is understood to speak here of the perfect level of the surface, 
and not of the straightness of the sides: Aux deux extremites," he 
translates, " il est plus large qu au haut de la montee: mais quand on a 
acheve de monter, on le trouve plat et de niveau comme s il avoit este tire 
a la ligne." (Nouv. Relat. p. 14.) But the words, uguale per longo 
corne se fosse tirato per linea," seem rather to refer to the general paral 
lelism of the sides, although at the ends they diverged, as is the case 
with almost all bridges. 

3 It has been observed before, that when our author speaks of lions in 
China, as living animals, he undoubtedly means tigers; but it is other 
wise with respect to the imaginary and grotesque representations of the 
lion, in marble, bronze, and porcelain, employed as ornaments in the 
public buildings and gardens of these people. The ideas of the symbolic 
lion and of the tortoise are borrowed from the singa and the kdrma of 
Hindu mythology. 

4 It is difficult to understand from the words of the text (the obscurity 
of which is likely to have been increased by successive transcripts) the 
position of these larger columns with regard to the other parts of the 
bridge; but it seems to be meant, that in the line of the parapet or balus 
trade, which was formed of alternate slabs of marble and pillars, there 
was in the middle (or over the centre arch or pier) a column of a size 
much larger than the rest, having a tortoise for its base or pedestal; and 
it may be presumed, although not so expressed, that there was a similar 
column in the balustrade on the opposite side. Our author seems, 
indeed, to have been sensible of this kind of deficiency in his description, 
when he says at the conclusion of the chapter, " Et nelle discesa del 
ponte e come nell ascesa." One of the Jesuit missionaries who mentions 
a bridge which he had crossed in this part of the province says, " Les 
gardefous en sont de marbre; on conte de chaque cote cent quarante- 
huit poteaux avec des lionceaux au-dessus . . . et aux deux bouts du 
pont quatre elephans accroupis." Lett. 6dif. torn. xvii. p. 263. 

224 Travels of Marco Polo 

that might otherwise happen to passengers. What has been 
said applies to the descent as well as to the ascent of the 
bridge. 1 



AFTER having passed this bridge,, proceeding thirty miles in 
a westerly direction,, through a country abounding with fine 
buildings, amongst vineyards and much cultivated and fertile 
grounds, you arrive at a handsome and considerable city, 
named Gouza, 2 where there are many convents of the idolaters. 
The inhabitants in general live by commerce and manual arts. 
They have manufactures of gold tissues and the finest kind 
of gauze. The inns for accommodating travellers are there 
numerous. 3 At the distance of a mile beyond this, place, the 
roads divide; the one going in a westerly, and the other in a 
south-easterly direction, the former through the province of 
Cathay, and the latter towards the province of Manji. 4 From 

1 Notwithstanding any partial difficulties In the description, or seem 
ing objections to the credibility of the account given of this magnificent 
bridge, there is unquestionable authority for the existence of one similar 
to it in all the essential circumstances, and as nearly about the situation 
mentioned as can be ascertained from the conciseness of the itinerary, 
so lately as the seventeenth century. It may well, however, be supposed 
that in the lapse of four hundred years material changes must have 
taken place, in consequence of accidents, repairs, and perhaps renewals. 

2 From the relative situation and other circumstances mentioned of 
this place, I do not hestitate to consider it as intended for Tso-cheu, a 
city of the second class, spoken of in the preceding note; and this will 
appear the more probable when it is understood, that, although cor 
ruptly written Gou-za in Ramusio s text, it is Gio-gu in the early Venice 
epitomes, [Gio-guy in the Paris Latin text,] Geo-gui in that of Basle, 
and Cyongium in the B.M. and Berlin manuscripts, in all of which the 
first letter is meant to be soft, and evidently to represent the Chinese 
sound which we more aptly express by Ts. It has already been observed, 
and the instances will again frequently occur, of the Chinese appellative 
term cheu or tcheou (for a city of the second order) being corrupted to 
gui, apparently an orthographical mistake for giu, which nearly ap 
proaches to the true sound. Tso-cheu, according to the journals both 
of Van Braam and De Guignes, is twelve French leagues distant from 
Pekin, but as the former adds that it was a hundred and twenty Chinese 
li, and as this is more likely to be the true distance (for certainly those 
gentlemen did not measure it), we are justified in considering it as up 
wards of forty Italian miles, [the earliest and best MSS. have thirty, as 
given in our text,] at which number our author states it. 

3 Van Braam observes, that at Tso-cheu they found an excellent con" 
quan (kong-kuan], or inn. 

4 The road by which the persons who composed the Dutch embassy 

The City of Achbaluch 225 

the city of Gouza it is a journey of ten days through Cathay to 
the kingdom of Ta-in-fu ; x in the course of which you pass 
many fine cities and strong places, in which manufactures and 
commerce flourish, and where you see many vineyards and 
much cultivated land. From hence grapes are carried into the 
interior of Cathay, where the vine does not grow. Mulberry- 
trees also abound, the leaves of which enable the inhabitants 
to produce large quantities of silk. A degree of civilization 
prevails amongst all the people of this country, in conse 
quence of their frequent intercourse with the towns, which are 
numerous and but little distant from each other. To these 
the merchants continually resort, carrying their goods from 
one city to another, as the fairs are successively held at each. 
At the end of five days journey beyond the ten that have 
been mentioned, it is said there is another city still larger 
and more handsome (than Ta-in-fu), named Achbaluch, 2 to 
which the limits of his majesty s hunting grounds extend, 
and within which no persons dare to sport, excepting the 
princes of his own family, and those whose names are inscribed 
on the grand falconer s list; but beyond these limits, al] 
persons qualified by their rank are at liberty to pursue game. 
It happens, however, that the grand khan scarcely ever takes 
the amusement of the chase on this side of the country ; 3 and 
the consequence is, that the wild animals, especially hares 
multiply to such a degree as to occasion the destruction of all 
the growing corn of the province. When this came to the 

of 1795 travelled from Canton to Pekin was this latter, which is here 
described as leading through Tso-cheu to Manji or Southern China. 
The western road diverges at this point, and is that which was taken, in 
1668, by P. Fontaney, who particularly describes it in his journal, pub 
lished by Du Halde. 

1 Ta-in-fu, or Tainfu, is obviously Tai-yuen-fu, the capital of the 
modern province of Shan-si, which was frequently, in ancient times, the 
seat of an independent government. Its direction is about west-south 
west from Tso-cheu, and the distance appears to be about ten eas*: 

The circumstances stated do not supply the means of identifying 
this place, which was known to our author only by report. Its situation 
was probably to the north-west, as he afterwards proceeds to speak of 
places more remote, in a south-western direction; and it may have been 
intended for the city of Tai-tong-fu, which lies in that direction. The 
name of Ach-baluch is evidently Tartar, and serves to show that the 
want of the final guttural in Kanbalu, which the Persians give to it, is 
an accidental omission. No mention of this city is found in the Latin 

1 We have seen that the usual hunting expeditions of the grand khan 
took place either at Shang-tu, which lies northward of Pekin, or in the 
direction of Eastern Tartary and the river Amur. 


226 Travels of Marco Polo 

knowledge of the grand khan,, he repaired thither,, with the 
whole of his court, and innumerable multitudes of these 
animals were taken. 



AT the end of ten days journey from the city of Gouza, you 
arrive (as has been said) at the kingdom of Ta-in-fu, whose 
chief city, the capital of the province,, bears the same name. 
It is of the largest size, and very beautiful. 1 A considerable 
trade is carried on here, and a variety of articles are manu 
factured, particularly arms and other military stores, which 
are at this place conveniently situated for the use of the grand 
khan s armies. Vineyards are numerous, from which grapes 
in vast abundance are gathered; and although within all the 
jurisdiction of Ta-in-fu no other vines are found than those 
produced in the district immediately surrounding the capital, 
there is yet a sufficient supply for the whole of the province. 2 

1 " La ville capitale de Tai-yuen," says P. Martini, whom Du Halde 
copies, " a toujours este mise au rang des plus considerables, ancienne, 
magnifique, et bien bastie: elle a de ires- fortes murailles, environ de 
trois lieues de circuit, fort peuplee; au reste, est situee dans un lieu fort 
agreable et fort sain. . . . II ne faut pas s estonner s il s y trouve si 
grande quantite de bastimens et si rnagiiinques, puis que 9 a este la 
demeure de tant de roys." (Thevenot, torn. ii. p. 48.) It may be neces 
sary here to remark, that what appears to be the concluding syllable in 
the names of Chinese towns (but which is a distinct monosyllable), serves 
to indicate their size or rank, and municipal jurisdiction or dependence: 
thus f& or fou denotes a city of the first class, having under its super 
intendence a certain number of those belonging to the inferior classes; 
cheu or token denotes a city of the second class, subject to the jurisdiction 
of its fit ; and hien a city or town of the third class, subject to its cheu. 
It also appears that each greater city contains these subordinate juris 
dictions within itself. 

2 In this instance I have ventured to correct the text of Rarnusio, by 
substituting " grapes for " wine," although it is in conformity with 
the Venice epitome and the Latin version; because I am persuaded that, 
from ignorance of the facts, the expression of the original has been mis 
understood, and our author is made to assert of the liquor what was 
only intended to apply to the fruit. " La Chine," says De Guignes, 
" produit du raisin, mais le pays n est pas vignoble: le raisin meme 
paroit peu propre a faire du vin, et ce n est qu avec peine que les mis- 
sionnaires & Peking reussissent a en fake." (Tom. iii. p. 348.) That 
these dried grapes, or raisins, as they are termed in English, were the 
article of trade that our author meant to describe, will, I trust, be con 
sidered as at least highly probable, inasmuch as the correction renders 
him consistent with himself, and his information, with the knowledge 
we have since acquired. 

Fortress of Thai-gin 227 

Other fruits also grow here in plenty, as does the mulberry- 
tree, together with the worms that yield the silk. 



LEAVING Ta-in-fu, and travelling westward, seven days 
journey, through a fine country in which there are many cities 
and strong places, where commerce and manufactures prevail, 
and whose merchants, travelling over various parts of the 
country, obtain considerable profits, you reach a city named 
Pi-an-fu, which is of a large size and much celebrated. 1 It 
likewise contains numerous merchants and artisans. Silk is 
produced here also in great quantity. We shall not say any 
thing further of these places, but proceed to speak of the 
distinguished city of Ka-chan-fu; first noticing, however, a 
noble fortress named Thai-gin. 



IN a western direction from Pi-an-fu there is a large and hand 
some fortress named Thai-gin, 2 which is said to have been 

1 This is the city of Pin-yang-fu, situated in the direction of south- 
south-west from the former, upon the same river; the banks of which, 
in its whole course, appear to be covered with towns. From its situation 
with respect to the Hoang-ho, or Yellow River, we are enabled to ascer 
tain it to be the city visited by Shah Rokh s ambassadors, when they 
had crossed the famous bridge of boats, and of which, after describing 
the magnificence of its great temple, it is said: "Us y remarquerent 
trois bordels publics, ou il y avoit des filles de joye d une grande beaute. 
Quoique les filles du Khata i soient belles communement, neanmoins 
elles sont la plus belles qu ailleurs, et la ville pour ce sujet s appelle la 
yille de la beaute." (Thevenot, iv. partie, p. 5.) This we may con 
jecture to be the kind of celebrity to which our author so modestly 

2 The place here called Thai- gin and Tai-gin is in the Latin versions 
Chin-cui and Cay-cui, and in the Italian epitomes Chai-cui, [in the Paris 
Latin Cay-tui] : names so unlike that it may well be thought difficult to 
identify it from the orthography; but its situation between Pin-yang 
and the great Yellow River points it out with some probability, as the 
Kiai-tcheou of the Jesuits map; nor will the sound of the word Kiai, 
which is the essential part of the name, be found to differ materially 
from the Cay and Chai of the Latin and early Italian versions. With 

228 Travels of Marco Polo 

built, at a remote period, by a king who was called Dor. 1 
Within the walls of the fort stands a spacious and highly- 
ornamented palace, the hall of which contains paintings of all 
the renowned princes who, from ancient times, have reigned 
at this place, forming together a superb exhibition. A remark 
able circumstance in the history of this king Dor shall now be 
related. He was a powerful prince, assumed much state, 
and was always waited upon by young women of extraordinary 
beauty, a vast number of whom he entertained at his court. 
When, for recreation, he went about the fortress, he was drawn 
in his carriage by these damsels, which they could do with 
facility, as it was of a small size. They were devoted to his 
service, and performed every office that administered to his 
convenience or amusement. In his government he was not 
wanting in vigour, and he ruled with dignity and justice. 
The works of his castle, according to the report of the people 
of the country, were beyond example strong. He was, how 
ever, a vassal of Un-khan, who, as we have already stated, 
was known by the appellation of Prester John; but, influ 
enced by pride, he rebelled against him. When this came to 
the knowledge of Prester John, he was exceedingly grieved, 

respect to the latter monosyllable, whether it be corruptly written gin 
(for giu) or cui (for ciu), it is indubitably meant for the term cheu, tcheou, 
giu, or ciu (according to the mode of writing it with the different Euro 
pean alphabets), which denotes (as already observed) a city of the second 

1 The name of this prince, which in Ramusio s text, as well as in the 
Italian epitome, is written Dor, is in some Latin editions absurdly trans 
formed to Darius. The former, it must be confessed, bears no resem 
blance to a Chinese, and but little to a Tartar word; yet, even on the 
supposition of the story being merely a popular legend with which our 
author was amused in the course of his travels through the country, the 
names of the actors ought not to be the less in harmony with the language 
of its inhabitants. I am therefore disposed to hazard a conjecture respect 
ing it, that by some may be thought too bold, but which I am persuaded 
will appear most probable to those readers who are best acquainted with 
the histories of these people. It is known that, previously to the invasion 
of Jengiz-khan, the northern provinces of China were held in subjection 
by a race from Eastern Tartary, called Niuche, but whose dynasty 
received the appellation of Kin, from a term signifying " gold " in the 
Chinese language. L an 1118," says the historian of the Huns, " O-ko- 
ta fut proclame empereur, et donna a sa dynastie le nom de Kin en 
Chinois, et d Altoun dans la langue de ces peuples, c est-a-dire, Or; c est 
de-la que les Arabes les out appelles Altoun- khans." (Tom. i. p. 208.) 
May not the prince here spoken of have belonged to this family of the 
Kin, who were the contemporaries of Un-khan; and may not the D Or, 
or Doro, of our author be intended for a translation of the Chinese term ? 
The word enters into the composition of many proper names, and is 
often rendered by its equivalent in European languages; as in the 
instance of " Kin-chan ou Montague d or." 

History of King Dor 229 

being sensible that, from the strong situation of the castle, it 
would be in vain to march against it, or even to proceed to any 
act of hostility. Matters had remained some time in this state, 
when seven cavaliers belonging to his retinue presented them 
selves before him, and declared their resolution to attempt 
the seizure of king ,Dor s person, and to bring him alive to 
his majesty. To this they were encouraged by the promise 
of a large reward. They accordingly took their departure 
for the place of his residence, and feigning to have arrived 
from a distant country, made him an offer of their services. 
In his employment they so ably and diligently performed their 
duties that they gained the esteem of their new master, who 
showed them distinguished favour, insomuch that when he 
took the diversion of hunting, he always had them near his 
person. One day when the king was engaged in the chase, and 
had crossed a river which separated him from the rest of his 
party, who remained on the opposite side, these cavaliers per 
ceived that the opportunity now presented itself of executing 
their design. They drew their swords, surrounded the king, 
and led him away by force towards the territory of Prester John, 
without its being possible for him to receive assistance from his 
own people. When they reached the court of that monarch, 
he gave orders for clothing his prisoner in the meanest apparel, 
and, with the view of humiliating him by the indignity, com 
mitted to him the charge of his herds. In this wretched con 
dition he remained for two years, strict care being taken that 
he should not effect his escape. At the expiration of that 
period, Prester John caused him to be again brought before him, 
trembling from apprehension that they were going to put him to 
death. But on the contrary, Prester John, after a sharp and 
severe admonition, in which he warned him against suffering 
pride and arrogance to make him swerve from his allegiance in 
future, granted him a pardon, directed that he should be 
dressed in royal apparel, and sent him back to his principality 
with an honourable escort. From that time forward he always 
preserved his loyalty, and lived on amicable terms with Prester 
John. The foregoing is what was related to me on the subject 
of king Dor. 1 

1 It will be observed that our author does not express himself with any 
degree of confidence as to the authenticity of this romantic adventure. 
If it was only an idle tale imposed upon him for an historical fact, it 
must have been the invention of Tartars rather than of Chinese, who 
would not have made a prince of Shan-si the vassal of a Tartar sovereign. 
On the contrary, it is asserted by Gaubil that their annals describe Ua- 

230 Travels of Marco Polo 




UPON leaving the fortress of Thai-gin, and travelling about 
twenty miles, you come to a river called the Kara-moran, 1 
which is of such magnitude, both in respect to width and 
depth, that no solid bridge can be erected upon it. Its waters 
are discharged into the ocean, as shall hereafter be more 
particularly mentioned. 2 On its banks are many cities and 
castles, in which a number of trading people reside, who carry 
on an extensive commerce. The country bordering upon it 
produces ginger, and silk also in large quantities. Of birds 
the multitude is incredible, especially of pheasants, 3 which are 
sold at the rate of three for the value of a Venetian groat. 
Here likewise grows a species of large cane, in infinite abun 
dance, some of a foot, and others a foot and a half (in circum 
ference), which are employed by the inhabitants for a variety of 
useful purposes. 4 

khan himself as tributary to the sovereigns of the dynasty of Kin; and 
that the Chinese title of vang, or prince, was prefixed to his original title 
of khan, forming together Vang-khan, of which the Arabs made Ung- 
khan or Un-khan. [The account of his reception by Prester John is 
told with rather more detail in the Latin text published by the Paris 
Geographical Society.] 

1 This name (written Caromoran in the Latin, Carmoro in the early 
epitomes, and Cathametam in the Paris Latin), which signifies the Black 
River, is well known to be the Tartar appellation of that vast stream 
which, with a very winding course, traverses the whole of China, under 
the name of the Hoang-ho, or Yellow River; so called from the colour 
of its waters, impregnated as they are with yellow clay. It is at the same 
time not improbable that in the upper part of its course, through a differ 
ent and perhaps mossy soil, its hue may equally justify the epithet of 

8 Some of the rivers of Tartary discharge themselves into lakes, whilst 
others are lost in the sandy deserts. 

8 Frequent mention is made of these birds, at places in the vicinity of 
the Yellow River. 

* The bamboo cane (arundo bambos), one of the most useful materials 
with which nature has furnished the inhabitants of warm climates, is 
known to be common in China. In the Mem. concern, les Chinois, torn, 
ii. p. 532, it is observed that the greater part of the houses in the pro 
vince of Se-chuen are constructed of bamboos. The latitude of the part 
of the Kara-muran or Hoang-ho here spoken of is about 35. Further 
northward the bamboo is not likely to flourish. 

City of Ka-chan-fu 23 i 



HAVING crossed this river and travelled three days journey, 
you arrive at a city named Ka-chan-fu/ whose inhabitants are 
idolaters. They carry on a considerable traffic, and work at 
a variety of manufactures. The country produces in great 
abundance, silk, ginger, galangal, 2 spikenard, and many drugs 
that are nearly unknown in our part of the world. Here 
they weave gold tissues, as well as every other kind of silken 
cloth. We shall speak in the next place of the noble and 
celebrated city of Ken-zan-fu, in the kingdom of the same 



DEPARTING from Ka-chan-fu, and proceeding eight days 
journey in a westerly direction, you continually meet with 
cities and commercial towns, and pass many gardens and 
cultivated grounds, with abundance of the mulberry or tree 
that contributes to the production of silk. The inhabitants in 
general worship idols, but there are also found here Nestorian 
Christians, 3 Turkomans, 4 and Saracens. The wild beasts of 
the country afford excellent sport, and a variety of birds also 

1 The name of Cacianfu, or Ka-chan-fu, which in the early Venice 
epitome is Cancianfu, and in the Basle, Cianfu (but which does not occur 
in the B.M. manuscript, nor in the early Latin edition), cannot be traced 
in Du Halde s map; nor does there appear any city of the first class 
(implied by the adjunct fu] between that part of the Hoang-ho and the 
capital of the province of Shen-si, towards which our author s route is 
here directed. 

2 Galanga, or galangal, well known in the materia medica, is the root 
of the Kcempferia. By the Italian spico I suppose is meant spikenard 
(Nardus Indica). 

3 The province of Shen-si is understood to have been the principal 
seat of Christianity, when preached in this country, at an early period, 
by the Nestorians. Being the most western of the provinces that com 
pose the empire of China, it was the easiest of access to those who travelled 
by land from Syria, and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean. 

4 By Turkomans we are not to understand the Tartars of the Desert, 
but merchants either from Turkomania of Asia Minor (the kingdom of 
the Seljuks of Rum), or from Bokhara, formerly the capital of Turkistan, 
a place of considerable traffic and civilization. 

232 Travels of Marco Polo 

are taken. At the end of those eight stages you arrive at the 
city of Ken-zan-fu, 3 which was anciently the capital of an 
extensive, noble, and powerful kingdom, the seat of many 
kings, highly descended and distinguished in arms. 2 At the 
present day it is governed by a son of the grand khan, named 
Mangalu, upon whom his father has conferred the sovereignty. 3 
It is a country of great commerce, and eminent for its manu 
factures. Raw silk is produced in large quantities, and 
tissues of gold and every other kind of silk are woven there. 
At this place likewise they prepare every article necessary for 
the equipment of an army. All species of provisions are in 
abundance, and to be procured at a moderate price. The 
inhabitants in general worship idols, but there are some Chris 
tians, Turkomans, and Saracens. 4 In a plain, about five miles 
from the city, stands a beautiful palace belonging to king 
Mangalu, embellished with many fountains and rivulets, both 
within and on the outside of the buildings. There is also a 
fine park, surrounded by a high wall, with battlements, enclos 
ing an extent of five miles, where all kinds of wild animals, both 
beasts and birds, are kept for sport. In its centre is this 
spacious palace, which, for symmetry and beauty, cannot be 
surpassed. It contains many halls and chambers, ornamented 
with paintings in gold and the finest azure, as well as with 
great profusion of marble. Mangalu, pursuing the footsteps 
of his father, governs his principality with strict equity, and 
is beloved by his people. He also takes much delight in hunt 
ing and hawking. 

1 However different the name of Ken-zan-fu may be from Si-ngan-fu, 
or Si-gan-fu (as it is more commonly written), circumstances show that 
the eminent city described in the text is meant for the capital of the 
province of Shen-si, which appears to be distant about nine stages from 
the passage of the Hoang-ho. The practice of changing the appellations 
(always significant) of important places, upon the accession of a new 
family, is matter of notoriety; and accordingly the several names of 
Kan-chug, Yun-ghing, Chang-gan, and Ngan-si, which under the dynasty 
of the Ming (1370) was reversed and made Si-ngan, are recorded as having 
at different periods belonged to this city. 

2 See Appendix II. 

3 In a list of the sons of Kublai , given by De Guignes (Hist. gen. des 
Huns, liv. xvi. p. 189), we find the third, there named Mangkola, to have 
been governor of Shen-si, Se-chuen, and Tibet. 

* " Les Mogols ou Yuen," says the younger De Guignes, " qui s em- 
parerent du trone en 1279 e t chasserent les Song, amenerent un grand 
nombre de Mussulmans. Ceux-ci furent tres-nombreux jusqu a la 
dynastic des Ming, qui commenQa a regner en 1368, apres avoir detruit 
les Tartares," 

The Boundaries of Cathay and Manji 233 



TRAVELLING westward three days from the residence of Man- 
galu, you still find towns and castles, whose inhabitants subsist 
by commerce and manufactures, and where there is an abun 
dance of silk; but at the end of these three stages you^ enter 
upon a region of mountains and valleys, which lie within the 
province of Kun-kin. 1 This tract, however, has no want of 
inhabitants, who are worshippers of idols, and cultivate the 
earth. They live also by the chase, the land being much 
covered with woods. In these are found many wild beasts, 
such as lions (tigers), bears, lynxes, fallow deer, antelopes, 
stags, and many other animals, which are made to turn to 
good account. This region extends to the distance of twenty 
clays journey, during which the way lies entirely over moun 
tains and through valleys and woods, but still interspersed 
with towns where travellers may find convenient accommoda 
tion. This journey of twenty days towards the west being 
performed, you arrive at a place called Ach-baluch Manji, 
which signifies, the white city 2 on the confines of Manji, where 
the country becomes level, and is very populous. The in 
habitants live by trade and manual arts. Large quantities of 
ginger are produced here, which is conveyed through all the 
province of Cathay, with great advantage to the merchants. 3 
The country yields wheat, rice, and other grain plentifully, 
and at a reasonable rate. This plain, thickly covered with 

1 The country to which our author s description here applies is evi 
dently the province of Se-chuen, which lies south-westward from Si-ngan- 
fu, and is a mountainous region. 

a It has been already noticed that baligh is a term used in Tartary 
for " city," and ak, in the dialects of Turkistan, is known to signify 
" white," which justifies our author s interpretation of the name; but 
why he should express it in the Tartar language, unless on the supposi 
tion of his having forgotten the Chinese appellation, does not appear. 
I confess, also, that with such imperfect lights I am unable to make any 
satisfactory conjecture with regard to its position; and this is the more 
to be regretted, as it would have enabled us to ascertain the north-western 
limits of Manji, or Southern China. 

3 It may be doubted whether the root here called ginger was not 
rather intended for that which we call China-root, and the Chinese 
fu-lin (smilax), produced in its greatest perfection in this province, and 
for which, as it was at that period little if at all known in European 
pharmacy, it might be found necessary to substitute a familiar term. 
La vraye ratine de Sina," says P. Martini, " se trouve seulement dans 
cette province; pour la sauvage, on la trouve par tout." P. 79. 

234 Travels of Marco Polo 

habitations, continues for two stages, after which you again 
come to high mountains, valleys, and forests. Travelling 
twenty days still further to the west, you continue to find the 
country inhabited, by people who worship idols, and subsist 
upon the produce of their soil, as well as that of the chase. 
Here also, besides the wild animals above enumerated, there 
are great numbers of that species which produces the musk. 




HAVING travelled those twenty stages through a mountainous 
country, you reach a plain on the confines of Manji, where 
there is a district named Sin-din-fu, by which name also the 
large and noble city, its capital, formerly the seat of many 
rich and powerful kings, is called. 1 The circumference of the 
city is twenty miles; but at the present day it is divided in 
consequence of the following circumstances. The late old 
king had three sons; and it being his wish that each of them 
should reign after his death, he made a partition of the city 
amongst them, separating one part from the other by walls, 
although the whole continued to be surrounded by one general 
enclosure. These three brothers accordingly became kings, 
and each had for his portion a considerable tract of country, 
the territory of their father having been extensive and rich. 
But, upon its conquest by the grand khan, he destroyed these 
three princes, and possessed himself of their inheritance. 2 

The city is watered by many considerable streams, which, 
descending from the distant mountains, surround and pass 

1 This city, which in the Basle edition as well as in that of Ramusio 
is named Sin-din-fu, in the older Latin Syn-dy-fu, and in the early epi 
tomes, Sindirifa, appears from the circumstances mentioned to be that 
now called Ching-tu-fu, situated on the western side of the province of 
Se-chuen, of which it is the capital. The western boundary of Manji, 
as has been observed, is not well known, but it is evident from the mili 
tary operations of 1236 and 1238, that the Song, who then ruled it, were 
masters of this city of Ching-tu. When taken by the Mungals it is said 
(with no little exaggeration) that one million four hundred thousand 
persons were put to the sword. Hist. gen. de la Chine, torn. ix. p. 219. 

2 The king here spoken of must have been a tributary either of the 
Song or of the Mungals, and might be one of those who received the 
Chinese title of Vang, and were more or less independent, according to 
the energy of the general government. 

The Province of Sin-din-fu 235 

through it in a variety of directions. Some of these rivers are 
half a mile in width, others are two hundred paces, and very 
deep, over which are built several large and handsome stone 
bridges, eight paces in breadth, their length being greater or 
less according to the size of the stream. From one extremity 
to the other there is a row of marble pillars on each side, which 
support the roof; for here the bridges have very handsome 
roofs, constructed of wood, ornamented with paintings of a 
red colour, and covered with tiles. Throughout the whole 
length also there are neat apartments and shops, where all 
sorts of trades are carried on. 1 One of the buildings, larger 
than the rest, is occupied by the officers who collect the duties 
upon provisions and merchandise, and a toll from persons 
who pass the bridge. In this way, it is said, his majesty re 
ceives daily the sum of a hundred besants of gold. 2 These 
rivers, uniting their streams below the city, contribute to form 
the mighty river called the Kian, 3 whose course, before it dis 
charges itself into the ocean, is equal to a hundred days 
journey; 4 but of its properties occasion will be taken to speak 
in a subsequent part of this book. 

On these rivers and in the parts adjacent are many towns 
and fortified places, and the vessels are numerous, in which 
large quantities of merchandise are transported to and from 
the city. The people of the province are idolaters. Depart 
ing from thence you travel five stages, partly along a plain, 
and partly through valleys, where you see many respectable 

1 This peculiarity of the bridges in Se-chuen is not noticed in the 
meagre accounts we have of that province, which all resolve themselves 
into the original information given by P. Martini, in his Atlas Sinensis 
(1655). The Latin edition of our author states, that the shops or booths 
were set up in the morning, and removed from the bridge at night. 

a In the other versions, instead of a hundred, it is stated at a thousand 
besants (or sequins). 

8 The numerous streams by which the city of Ching-tu is surrounded, 
form their junction successively, and discharge their united waters into 
the great river Kiang, as is here described, but its distance from the 
latter is more considerable than the words of the text would lead us to 
suppose. In the Basle edition, indeed, the Kiang is said to pass through 
the city; per medium hujus civitatis transit fluvius qui dicitur Quian- 
fu (Kiang-su) ; " [in the Paris Latin text the name of the river is Quingia- 
fu ;] but besides that the nature of the river disproves the fact, the mis 
take is explained by the Italian reading of the same passage, in the early 
epitomes, where the expression is, " per mezo questa terra passa uno 
grande fiume," by which is to be understood, as terra is here distinguished 
from cittd, that it flowed through the district. 

* In the Latin it is said to be ninety, and in the early Italian, seventy 
stages or days journey. The distance from the city of Su-cheu-fu, which 
stands at the junction of the river that runs from Ching-tu, with the 
Kiang, is equal to about four-fifths of the breadth of China. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

mansions, castles, and small towns. The inhabitants subsist 
by agriculture. In the city there are manufactures, particu 
larly of very fine cloths and of crapes or gauzes. 1 This country, 
like the districts already mentioned, is infested with lions 
(tigers), bears, and other wild animals. At the end of these 
five days journey you reach the desolated country of Thebeth. 



THE province named Thebeth 2 was laid entirely waste at the 
time that Mangu-khan carried his arms into that country. 
To the distance of twenty days journey you see numberless 
towns and castles in a state of ruin; and in consequence of 
the want of inhabitants, wild beasts, and especially tigers, 
have multiplied to such a degree that merchants and other 
travellers are exposed there to great danger during the night. 
They are not only under the necessity of carrying their pro 
visions along with them, but are obliged, upon arriving at 
their halting places, to employ the utmost circumspection, 
and to take the following precautions, that their horses may 
not be devoured. In this region, and particularly in the 
neighbourhood of rivers, are found canes (bamboos) of the 
length of ten paces, three palms in circumference, and three 
palms also in the space between each knot or joint. Several 
of these, in their green state, the travellers tie together, and 
place them, when evening approaches, at a certain distance 
from their quarters, with a fire lighted around them, when, 
by the action of the heat, they burst with a tremendous 
explosion. 3 The noise is so loud as to be heard at the dis- 

1 This sentence is a continuation of the account of Sin-din-fu, and 
ought to have had place in an earlier part of the chapter. It shows 
the inartificial manner in which the work was composed. 

2 The name of Thebeth, Thibet, or Tibet, is sometimes confined to 
that country, on the northern side of the Himalaya mountains, which 
is under the immediate government of the Dalai lama and Panchin 
lama, and sometimes is made to embrace the whole of what is other 
wise called Tangut, including the nations bordering on the provinces of 
Se-chuen and Shen-si, whom the Chinese term the Si-fan or Tu-fan. It 
appears to be of this eastern part, commencing at about five days 
journey from the city of Ching-tu, that our author proceeds to speak. 

3 The very loud explosion of burning bamboos is well known to those 
who have witnessed the conflagration of a village or a bazaar, in coun 
tries where the buildings are of that material. What most resembles it 
is the irregular but incessant firing of arms of all descriptions during a 
night of public rejoicing, in England. 

Immoral Customs of Thebeth 237 

tance of two miles,, which has the effect of terrifying the wild 
beasts and making them fly from the neighbourhood. The 
merchants also provide themselves with iron shackles, in order 
to fasten the legs of their horses, which would otherwise, when 
alarmed by the noise,, break their halters and run away; and, 
from the neglect of this precaution, it has happened that many 
owners have lost their cattle. Thus you travel for twenty 
days through a desolated country, finding neither inns nor 
provisions, unless perhaps once in three or four days, when 
you take the opportunity of replenishing your stock of neces 
saries. At the end of that period you begin to discover a few 
castles and strong towns, built upon rocky heights, or upon the 
summits of mountains, and gradually enter an inhabited and 
cultivated district, where there is no longer any danger from 
beasts of prey. 

A scandalous custom, which could only proceed from the 
blindness of idolatry, prevails amongst the people of these 
parts, who are disinclined to marry young women so long as 
they are in their virgin state, but require, on the contrary, 
that they should have had previous commerce with many of 
the other sex; and this, they assert, is pleasing to their deities, 
and that a woman who has not had the company of men is 
worthless. 1 Accordingly, upon the arrival of a caravan 2 of 
merchants, and as soon as they have set up their tents for the 
night, those mothers who have marriageable daughters con 
duct them to the place, and each, contending for a preference, 
entreats the strangers to accept of her daughter and enjoy her 
society so long as they remain in the neighbourhood. 3 Such 
as have most beauty to recommend them are of course chosen, 
and the others return home disappointed and chagrined, whilst 
the former continue with the travellers until the period of their 

1 P. Martini, speaking of the province of Yun-nan, which adjoins to 
that of Tibet, says of its inhabitants: Personne n epousoit de fille 
parmi eux, qu un autre n eust eu premierement sa compagnie: ce sont 
les paroles de nostre auteur Chinois." P. 196. 

a This is the second instance in the course of the work of the employ 
ment of the word caravan," taken from the Persian karwdn, and 
adopted into most European languages. (See book ii. chap, xviii.) The 
Arabic term, which we might have thought more likely to have been 
introduced by the Crusaders, is htifilah. 

3 Such is the depravity of human nature, that not only the moral but 
the instinctive principle may be subdued by the thirst of gain or the 
cravings of appetite. In his journey through Cooch Bahar on the road 
to Tibet, Turner observes that " nothing is more common than to see a 
mother dress up her child, and bring it to market, with no other hope, 
no other view than to enhance the price she may procure for it." Em 
bassy to Tibet, p. ii. 

2 3 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

departure. They then restore them to their mothers, and 
never attempt to carry them away. It is expected, however, 
that the merchants should make them presents of trinkets, 
rings, or other complimentary tokens of regard, which the 
young women take home with them. When, afterwards, they 
are designed for marriage, they wear all these ornaments about 
the neck or other part of the body, and she who exhibits the 
greatest number of them is considered to have attracted the 
attention of the greatest number of men, and is on that ac 
count in the higher estimation with the young men who are 
looking out for wives ; nor can she bring to her husband a more 
acceptable portion than a quantity of such gifts. At the 
solemnization of her nuptials, she accordingly makes a display 
of them to the assembly, and he regards them as a proof that 
their idols have rendered her lovely in the eyes of men. From 
thenceforward no person can dare to meddle with her who has 
become the wife of another, and this rule is never infringed. 
These idolatrous people are treacherous and cruel, and holding 
it no crime or turpitude to rob, are the greatest thieves in the 
world. 1 They subsist by the chase and by fowling, as well 
as upon the fruits of the earth. 

Here are found the animals that produce the musk, and 
such is the quantity, that the scent of it is diffused over the 
whole country. Once in every month the secretion takes 
place, and it forms itself, as has already been said, into a sort 
of imposthume, or boil full of blood, near the navel; and the 
blood thus issuing, in consequence of excessive repletion, be 
comes the musk. 2 Throughout every part of this region the 
animal abounds, and the odour generally prevails. They are 
called gudderi in the language of the natives, 3 and are taken 

1 This thievish character may have belonged to the Si- fan, who border 
on the Chinese provinces (as it has belonged to most borderers), but 
travellers describe the manners of the people of Tibet Proper as particu 
larly ingenuous and honest. 

* With respect to the supposed lunar influence on the secretion ol 
musk, Strahlenberg informs us that it is not at all times of the same 
strength, but " is best in summer, in rutting time, and at the full of 
the moon.* P. 340. 

8 The word gudderi, or any other approaching to it, is not to be found 
hi the vocabularies we have of the languages of Tartary. In the northern 
parts, according to Bell, the animal is named kaberda, or kabardyn accord 
ing to Strahlenberg; and Kirkpatrick, in his account of Nepaul, names 
it kastoora. It is not indeed improbable that gudderi or gadderi (as it 
is written in the Latin text) may be a corruption of the Persian word 
kasturt, which is the common term for the drug hi every part of the East, 
and would be used by the Mahometan merchants even on the borders 
of China. 

Manners of the Tibetans 239 

with dogs. These people use no coined money, nor even the 
paper money of the grand khan, but for their currency employ 
coral. 1 Their dress is homely, being of leather, undressed 
skins, or of canvas. They have a language peculiar to the 
province of Thebeth, which borders on Manji. This was 
formerly a country of so much importance as to be divided 
into eight kingdoms, containing many cities and castles. Its 
rivers, lakes, and mountains are numerous. In the rivers gold- 
dust is found in very large quantities. 2 Not only is the coral, 
before mentioned, used for money, but the women also wear it 
about their necks, and with it ornament their idols. 3 There 
are manufactures of camlet and of gold cloth, and many drugs 
are produced in the country that have not been brought to 
ours. These people are necromancers, and by their infernal 
art perform the most extraordinary and delusive enchant 
ments that were ever seen or heard of. They cause tempests to 
arise, accompanied with flashes of lightning and thunderbolts, 
and produce many other miraculous effects. They are alto 
gether an ill-conditioned race. They have dogs of the size of 
asses, 4 strong enough to hunt all sorts of wild beasts, par- 

1 It may not appear likely that the valuable red coral produced in the 
Mediterranean should have been carried to the borders of China in suffi 
cient quantity to be there made use of as currency ; nor is it a substance 
so readily divisible as to be convenient for the purpose; but of its general 
use in the way of ornament ample proof is furnished/ by Ta vernier. It 
is remarkable that to the present day the people of Tibet have no coinage 
of their own, but are supplied with a currency by their neighbours of 

2 Several of the streams which take their rise in the eastern parts of 
Tibet, and by their junctions form the great rivers of China, yield much 
gold, which is collected from their beds in grains or small lumps. This 
is principally remarked of the Kin-sha-kiang. " De tant de rivieres 
qu on voit sur la carte," says Du Halde, " on ne peut dire quelles sont 
celles qui fouriiissent tout 1 or qui se transporte a la Chine. ... II faut 
qu on en trouve dans les sables de plusieurs de ces rivieres: il est certain 
que la grande riviere Kin-cha-kian<r qui entre dans la province d Yun 
nan, en charie beaucoup dans son sable, car son nom signine, fleuve a 
sable d or." (Tom. iv. p. 470.) " Les Tou-fan, appelles Nan- mo, ont 
une riviere qui porte le nom de Ly-nieou, dans laquelle il se trouve beau- 
coup d or." Mem. cone, les Chinois, torn. xiv. p. 183. 

3 In describing the manners of a certain people in the Ava or Birmah 
country, Dr. F. Buchanan observes that " some of the women wore 
rich strings of coral round their necks." Syme s Embassy, p. 465. 

* This may appear to be an exaggeration, but other travellers describe 
the dogs of Tibet as of an uncommon size. " On the left," says Turner, 
" was a row of wooden cages, containing a number of huge dogs, tre 
mendously fierce, strong, and noisy. They were natives of Tibet; and 
whether savage by nature, or soured by confinement, they w 7 ere so im 
petuously furious, that it was unsafe, unless the keepers were near, even 
to approach their dens." And in another place, " The instant I entered 
the gate, to my astonishment, up started a huge dog, big enough, if his 

240 Travels of Marco Polo 

ticularly the wild oxen, which are called beyamini, 1 and are 
extremely large and fierce. Some of the best laner falcons are 
bred here, and also sakers, very swift of flight, and the natives 
have good sport with them. This province of Thebeth is 
subject to the grand khan, as well as all the other kingdoms 
and provinces that have been mentioned. Next to this is the 
province of Kaindu. 



KAIN-DU is a western province, v/hich was formerly subject 
to its own princes; but, since it has been brought under the 
dominion of the grand khan, it is ruled by the governors 
whom he appoints. We are not to understand, however, that 
it is situated in the western part (of Asia), but only that it 
lies westward with respect to our course from the north 
eastern quarter. Its inhabitants are idolaters. It contains 
many cities and castles, and the capital city, standing at the 
commencement of the province, is likewise named Kain-du. 2 
Near to it there is a large lake of salt water, in which are 
found abundance of pearls, of a white colour, but not round. 3 

courage had been equal to his size, to fight a lion." (Embassy to Tibet, 
pp. 155 215.) Under this sanction our author must stand excused of 
hyperbole, although some other accounts do not convey an idea of the 
same magnitude. " One of them," says Captain Raper, " was a re 
markably fine animal, as large as a good-sized Newfoundland dog, with 
very long hair and a head resembling a mastiff s. His tail was of an 
amazing length, like the brush of a fox, and curled half-way over his back. 
He was however so fierce that he would allow no stranger to approach 
him." Asiat. Res. vol. xi. p. 529. 

1 For an account of this animal, the bos grunniens, see before, p. 136, 
note 2 , p. 137, note 1 . Of the word beyamini (which does not occur either 
in the Latin or the Italian epitomes) I can discover no trace. It may be 
a corruption of brahmini. The animal is said to be called yak in Tar- 
tary, chowri in Tibet, and suragdi in Hindustan. 

2 The city that in point of situation and other circumstances appears 
to answer best to this description of Kain-du, is Yung-ning-tu, which 
stands on the western side of the Ya-long-kiang, in about latitude 28; 
although from some resemblance of sound we might rather suppose it 
to be Li-kiang-tu, a city at no great distance from the former, but 
standing on the western side of the Kin-sha-kiang, above its junction 
with the former river. 

3 I do not find it elsewhere asserted that the lake near Yung-ning-tu 
yields pearls, but they are enumerated by Martini amongst the valuable 
productions of that part of China: " On tire encore de cette province 
des rubis, des saphirs, des agathes . . . avec plusieurs pierres precieuses, 
et des perles." (P. 194.) The fishery of pearls in a river of Eastern 
Tartary is noticed by many writers. 

Money Made of Salt 241 

So great indeed is the quantity, that, if his majesty permitted 
every individual to search for them, their value would become 
trifling; but the fishery is prohibited to all who do not obtain 
his licence. A mountain in the neighbourhood yields the 
turquoise stone, the mines of which cannot be worked without 
the same permission. 

The inhabitants of this district are in the shameful and 
odious habit of considering it no mark of disgrace that those 
who travel through the country should have connexion with 
their wives, daughters, or sisters; but, on the contrary, when 
strangers arrive, each householder endeavours to conduct one 
of them home with him, and, giving up all the females of the 
family to him, leaves him in the situation of master of the 
house, and takes his departure. And while the stranger is 
in the house, he places a signal at the window, as his hat or 
some other thing; and as long as this signal is seen in the 
house, the husband remains absent. And this custom pre 
vails throughout that province. This they do in honour of 
their idols, believing that by such acts of kindness and hospi 
tality to travellers a blessing is obtained, and that they shall 
be rewarded with a plentiful supply of the fruits of the earth. 

The money or currency they make use of is thus prepared. 
Their gold is formed into small rods, and (being cut into cer 
tain lengths) passes according to its weight, without any 
stamp. 1 This is their greater money: the smaller is of the 
following description. In this country there are salt-springs, 
from which they manufacture salt by boiling it in small pans. 2 
When the water has boiled for an hour, it becomes a kind of 
paste, which is formed into cakes of the value of twopence 
each. These, which are flat on the lower, and convex on the 
upper side, are placed upon hot tiles, near a fire, in order to 
dry and harden. On this latter species of money the stamp 
of the grand khan is impressed, and it cannot be prepared by 

1 This substitute for coin resembles the larin of the Gulf of Persia, 
but with the difference, that the latter bears an imperfect stamp. In 
those districts of Sumatra where gold-dust is procured, commodities of 
all kinds, even so low as the value of a single grain, are purchased with 
it. The forming the metal into rods, and cutting off pieces as they are 
wanted for currency, may be considered as one step towards a coinage. 
The Chinese of Canton cut the Spanish dollar in the same manner to 
make up their fractional payments. 

2 P. Martini, in describing the town of Yao-gan, in the same province, 
says: " Pres de la ville il y a un puits d eau salee; on en puise pour 
faire du sel, qui est tres-blanc, dont on se sert dans tout le pays, et 
s appelle Pe-yen-cing, c est-a-dire le puits du sel blanc." (P. 204.) 
The name of Pe-yen-cing appears in Du Halde s map of Yun-nun. 

242 Travels of Marco Polo 

any other than his own officers. Eighty of the cakes are made 
to pass for a saggio of gold. 1 But when these are carried by 
the traders amongst the inhabitants of the mountains and 
other parts little frequented, they obtain a saggio of gold for 
sixty, fifty, or even forty of the salt cakes, in proportion as they 
find the natives less civilized, further removed from the towns, 
and more accustomed to remain on the same spot; inasmuch 
as people so circumstanced cannot always have a market for 
their gold, musk, and other commodities. And yet even at 
this rate it answers well to them who collect the gold-dust from 
the beds of the rivers, as has been mentioned. The same 
merchants travel in like manner through the mountainous and 
other parts of the province of Thebeth, last spoken of, where 
the money of salt has equal currency. Their profits are con 
siderable, because these country people consume the salt with 
their food, and regard it as an indispensable necessary ; whereas 
the inhabitants of the cities use for the same purpose only the 
broken fragments of the cakes, putting the whole cakes into 
circulation as money. Here also the animals called gudderi, 
which yield the musk, are taken in great numbers, and the 
article is proportionably abundant. 2 Many fish, of good kinds, 
are caught in the lake. In the country are found tigers, bears, 
deer, stags, and antelopes. There are numerous birds also, of 
various sorts. The wine is not made from grapes, but from 
wheat and rice, with a mixture of spices, which is an excellent 

This province likewise produces cloves. The tree is small; 
the branches and leaves resemble those of the laurel, but are 
somewhat longer and narrower. Its flowers are white and 
small, as are the cloves themselves, but as they ripen they 
become dark-coloured. Ginger grows there and also cassia in 
abundance, besides many other drugs, of which no quantity is 
ever brought to Europe. 3 Upon leaving the city of Kain-du, 

1 The saggio of Venice was the sixth part of an ounce, and conse 
quently the cake of salt was in value the four hundred and eightieth part 
of an ounce of gold, which, at the price of four pounds sterling, is exactly 
twopence for the value of each cake: a coincidence that could hardly 
have been expected. Its precision, however, must depend on a com 
parison between the English pence and Venetian denari of that day. 

2 The western parts of China and eastern of Tibet, or the country of 
the Si-fan, are those in which the best musk is found. Martini, in his 
Atlas Sinensis, speaks of it as the production of various places in Yun 

3 This appears to be the most unqualified error that has hitherto 
occurred in the course of the work, as cloves (garofali) and cassia or 
cinnamon (canella) certainly do not grow in that part of the world, nor 

The Province of Karaian 243 

the journey is fifteen l days to the opposite boundary of the 
province; in the course of which you meet with respectable 
habitations, many fortified posts, and also places adapted to 
hunting and fowling. The inhabitants follow the customs and 
manners that have already been described. At the end of 
these fifteen days, you come to the great river Brius, which 
bounds the province, and in which are found large quantities 
of gold-dust. 2 It discharges itself into the ocean. We shall 
now leave this river, as nothing further that is worthy of obser 
vation presents itself, and shall proceed to speak of the pro 
vince of Karaian. 




HAVING passed the river above mentioned, you enter the pro 
vince of Karaian, which is of such extent as to be divided 
into seven governments. 3 It is situated towards the west; the 

anywhere beyond the tropics. The only manner in which it is possible 
to account for an assertion so contrary to fact, is by supposing that a 
detached memorandum of what our author had observed in the spice 
islands (which there is great probability of his having visited whilst in 
the service of the emperor) has been introduced in a description where 
it is entirely irrelevant. 

1 [Some of the early texts have ten instead of fifteen.] 
a However unlike a Chinese or Tartar word, most of the editions agree 
in the orthography of the name of Brius given to this river, which seems 
to be intended for the Kin-sha-kiang, or " river with the golden sands." 
But if, on the other hand, Li-kiang-tu, which is situated on its south 
western side, should be considered as the Kain-du of the text, it will 
follow that the Brius is either the Lan-tsan-kiang, or the Nu-kiang, pre 
sumed to be the Irabatty of the kingdom of Ava. " The river Nou- 
kian," says Major Rennell, " little if at all inferior to the Ganges, runs 
to the south, through that angle of Yunan which approaches nearest to 
Bengal." (Memoir, 3d edit. p. 295.) [In the Paris Latin text it is 
Ligays; and in the early Italian, Brunis.] 

3 Karaian is generally understood to be the province of Yun-nan, or 
rather its north-western part, which is bounded, in great measure, by 
the Kin-sha-kiang. In the " Account of an Embassy to Ava," we find 
mention made of a race of people whose name corresponds with that of 
Karaian, and who may have been prisoners of war brought from the 
neighbouring country of Yun-nan, with which the people of Ava were 
often in hostility, and distributed in the latter as colonists. " He told 
me," says Colonel Symes, speaking of a respectable Italian missionary, 
" of a singular description of people called Carayners, or Carianers, that 
inhabit different parts of the country. . . . He represented them as a 
simple, innocent race, speaking a language distinct from that of 

244 Travels of Marco Polo 

inhabitants are idolaters ; and it is subject to the dominion of 
the grand khan, who has constituted as its king his son named 
Cen-Temur, a rich, magnificent, and powerful prince, endowed 
with consummate wisdom and virtue, and by whom the king 
dom is ruled with great justice. 1 In travelling from this river 
five days journey, in a westerly direction, you pass through a 
country fully inhabited, and see many castles. The inhabi 
tants live upon flesh meat and upon the fruits of the earth. 
Their language is peculiar to themselves, and is difficult to be 
acquired. The best horses are bred in this province. 2 At the 
end of these five days you arrive at its capital city, which is 
named Yachi, and is large and noble. 3 In it are found mer 
chants and artisans, with a mixed population, consisting of 
(the native) idolaters, Nestorian Christians, and Saracens or 
Mahometans; but the first is the most numerous class. The 
land is fertile in rice and wheat. The people, however, do not 
use wheaten bread, which they esteem unwholesome, but eat 
rice; and of the other grain, with the addition of spices, they 
make wine, which is clear, light-coloured, and most pleasant 
to the taste. 4 For money they employ the white porcelain 

Birmans, and entertaining rude notions of religion. They lead quite a 
pastoral life, and are the most industrious subjects of the state. . . . 
Agriculture, the care of cattle, and rearing poultry is almost their only 
occupation. A great part of the provisions used in the country is raised 
by the Carianers, and they particularly excel in gardening." (Pp. 207 
467.) By Dr. F. Buchanan the name is written Karayn; and he speaks 
also of the Ka-kiayn, " a wild people on the frontiers of China. "- 
Asiat. Res. vol. vi. p. 228. 

1 This prince is named in the B.M. and Berlin manuscripts, Gusen- 
temur; in the Basle edition, Esen-ternur; and in the Italian epitomes, 
Hensen-temur. In the Tables Chronologiques of De Guignes he is 
simply called Timour-khan; but one of his successors (a nephew) appears 
in the same list by the name of Yeson-timour, which, whether more or 
less correct in its orthography than any of the preceding, is evidently 
intended for the same appellation. He was, however, the grandson, not 
the son of Kublai, whom he succeeded in consequence of the premature 
death of his father Chingis. 

a " Ce pays," says P. Martini, produit de tres-bons chevaux, de 
basse taille pour la pluspart, mais forts et hardis." (P. 196.) This is 
probably the same breed as the tangun or tanyan horses of Lower Tibet, 
carried from thence for sale to Hindustan. The people of Biitan in 
formed Major Rennell that they brought their tanyans thirty-five days 
journey to the frontier. 

3 The present capital of the province of Yun-nan is a city of the same 
name; but there appears reason to conclude that, although the Karaian 
of our author be a part of that province, its city of Jaci, or Yachi, was 
not Yun-nan- fu, but Tali-fu, now considered as the second in rank. 
This, as we are informed by P. Martini, was named Ye-chu by the prince 
who founded it, and Yao-cheu by a subsequent dynasty; whilst the 
name of Tali was given to it by one of the Yuen or family of Kublai . 

* Our author, who seems to have been of a sociable disposition, misses 

The Province of Karaian 245 

shell, found in the sea, and these they also wear as ornaments 
about their necks. 1 Eighty of the shells are equal in value to 
a saggio of silver or two Venetian groats, and eight saggi of 
good silver, to one of pure gold. 2 In this country also there 
are salt-springs, from which all the salt used by the inhabi 
tants is procured. The duty levied on this salt produces a 
large revenue to the king. 

The natives do not consider it as an injury done to them, 
when others have connexion with their wives, provided the 
act be voluntary on the woman s part. Here there is a lake 
nearly a hundred miles in circuit, in which great quantities 
of various kinds of fish are caught; some of them being of a 
large size. The people are accustomed to eat the undressed 
flesh of fowls, sheep, oxen, and buffaloes, but cured in the 
following manner. They cut the meat into very small par 
ticles, and then put it into a pickle of salt, with the addition of 

no opportunity of praising the good qualities of this liquor ; but modern 
travellers, from prejudices perhaps, do not speak of it in such advan 
tageous terms. It is a kind of beer rather than of wine. 

1 These are the well-known cowries (kari) of Bengal, called by our 
naturalists Cypr&ce monetcz, which in former times may have found their 
way, through the province of Silhet, to the countries bordering on China, 
and were probably current in Yun-nan before its mountaineers were 
brought under regular subjection, and incorporated with the empire, 
which was a difficult and tedious measure of policy, chiefly effected by 
transplanting colonies of Chinese from the interior. "In 1764," says 
Major Renriell, " I was told that Silhet (an inland province to the north 
east of Bengal) produced cowries, and that they were dug up. This, of 
course, I disbelieved; but when I was there in 1767 and 1768, I found 
no other currency of any kind in the country; and upon an occasion when 
an increase in the reyenue of the province was enforced, several boat 
loads (not less than fifty tons each) were collected and sent down the 
Burrampooter, to Dacca. Their accumulation was probably the conse 
quence of Silhet being, at that period, the most remote district in which 
they passed current, and from whence they could not find a way out but 
by returning to Bengal." It is not uncommon to suppose that this 
genus of shells, called porcellana, derives its appellation from the varie 
gated appearance of its polished coat, resembling the glazed earthen 
ware or porcelain of China; but the early use of the word by our author 
renders it more likely that the shell having already obtained the name 
of porcellana (a diminutive of porco), on account of the gibbous form of 
its back, the foreign ware was subsequently called porcelain in Europe, 
from its possessing some of the most beautiful qualities of the shell. 

2 According to this estimation, if the numbers be correct, the value of 
the cowries must have been enormously increased by their carriage 
from Bengal to the frontiers of China. Their average price in the 
bazaar of Calcutta is said to be about five thousand for a rupee, which 
may be considered as equal to three saggi of silver ; and if sold at eighty 
for the saggio, the profit would consequently be at the rate of five thou 
sand for two hundred and forty, or more than twenty for one. Perhaps, 
therefore, instead of eighty, we should read eight hundred cowries to the 
saggio, which would still leave a profit of cent, per cent. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

several of their spices. It is thus prepared for persons of the 
higher class, but the poorer sort only steep it, after mincing, in 
a sauce of garlic, and then eat it as if it were dressed. 



LEAVING the city of Yachi, and travelling ten days in a 
westerly direction, you reach the province of Karazan, which 
is also the name of its chief city. 1 The inhabitants are idol 
aters. The country belongs to the dominion of the grand 
khan, and the royal functions are exercised by his son, named 
Kogatin. 2 Gold is found in the rivers, both in small particles 
and in lumps; and there are also veins of it in the mountains. 
In consequence of the large quantity obtained, they give a 
saggio of gold for six saggi of silver. They likewise use the 
before-mentioned porcelain shells in currency; which, how 
ever, are not found in this part of the world, but are brought 
from India. As I have said before, these people never take 
virgins for their wives. 

Here are seen huge serpents, ten paces in length, and ten 
spans in the girt of the body. At the fore part, near the head, 
they have two short legs, having three claws like those of a 
tiger, with eyes larger than a fourpenny loaf (pane da quattro 
denari) and very glaring. The jaws are wide enough to swallow 
a man, the teeth are large and sharp, and their whole appear 
ance is so formidable, that neither man, nor any kind of animal, 
can approach them without terror. 3 Others are met with of a 

1 This name of Karazan, which a Chinese might be supposed to pro 
nounce Ka-la-shan, seems to be only that of another portion of the pro 
vince of Yun-nan; as the places mentioned in the subsequent chapter 
unquestionably are: but so imperfect is our information respecting this 
part of the country, that the means are wanting by which its particular 
situation might be ascertained. It should be remarked, at the same 
time, that the name of Karazan, as distinct from that of Karaian, does 
not occur either in the Latin or in the early epitomes; all the circum 
stances related in this chapter being there considered as applying to the 
last-mentioned province or district. 

2 The name of Kogatin does not appear in the list of the legitimate 
sons of Kublai ; but he had many others. The orthography, however, is 
more than usually uncertain. In the B.M. and Berlin manuscripts the 
name is written Cogaam; in the old Latin edition it is Cogatuy; in the 
Basle, Cogracam (Cogra-khan) ; and in the early Italian epitomes, 

3 This distorted account of the alligator or crocodile is less creditable 
to our author s fidelity than any other of his natural history descriptions, 
although generally more or less defective. 

Great Serpents of Karazan 247 

smaller size, being eight, six, or five paces long; and the follow 
ing method is used for taking them. In the day-time, by 
reason of the great heat, they lurk in caverns, from whence, 
at night, they issue to seek their food, and whatever beast they 
meet with and can lay hold of, whether tiger, wolf, or any other, 
they devour; after which they drag themselves towards some 
lake, spring of water, or river, in order to drink. By their 
motion in this way along the shore, and their vast weight, they 
make a deep impression, as if a heavy beam had been drawn 
along the sands. Those whose employment it is to hunt them 
observe the track by which they are most frequently accus 
tomed to go, and fix into the ground several pieces of wood, 
armed with sharp iron spikes, which they cover with the sand 
in such a manner as not to be perceptible. When therefore 
the animals make their way towards the places they usually 
haunt, they are wounded by these instruments, and speedily 
killed. 1 The crows, as soon as they perceive them to be dead, 
set up their scream ; and this serves as a signal to the hunters, 
who advance to the spot, and proceed to separate the skin 
from the flesh, taking care immediately to secure the gall, 
which is most highly esteemed in medicine. In cases of the 
bite of a mad dog, a pennyweight of it, dissolved in wine, is 
administered. It is also useful in accelerating parturition, 
when the labour pains of women have come on. A small 
quantity of it being applied to carbuncles, pustules, or other 
eruptions on the body, they are presently dispersed ; and it is 
efficacious in many other complaints. The flesh also of the 
animal is sold at a dear rate, being thought to have a higher 
flavour than other kinds of meat, and by all persons it is 
esteemed a delicacy. 2 In this province the horses are of a 
large size, and whilst young, are carried for sale to India. It 
is the practice to deprive them of one joint of the tail, in order 
to prevent them from lashing it from side to side, and to occa 
sion its remaining pendent; as the whisking it about, in riding, 

1 The natives of India are particularly ingenious in their contrivances 
for destroying beasts of prey, particularly the tiger, which is sometimes 
made to fall upon sharp-pointed stakes, after walking up an inclined 
plane; but the alligator is most commonly taken in the water, with a 
large hook. 

2 The flesh of the guana or inguana, an animal intermediate in size 
between the lizard and the alligator, I have known to be eaten both by 
Chinese and Europeans, and by the former at least to be considered as 
a delicacy. I cannot assert the same of the alligator, but in a book of 
Natural History I read that " the Africans and Indians eat its flesh, 
which is white, and of a kind of perfumed (musky) flavour." 


Travels of Marco Polo 

appears to them a vile habit. 1 These people ride with long 
stirrups, as the French do in our part of the world; whereas 
the Tartars, and almost all other people, wear them short, for 
the more conveniently using the bow; as they rise in their 
stirrups above the horse, when they shoot their arrows. They 
have complete armour of buffalo-leather, and carry lances, 
shields, and cross-bows. All their arrows are poisoned. I was 
assured, as a certain fact, that many persons, and especially 
those who harbour bad designs, always carry poison about 
them, with the intention of swallowing it, in the event of their 
being apprehended for any delinquency, and exposed to the 
torture, that, rather than surfer it, they may effect their own 
destruction. But their rulers, who are aware of this practice, 
are always provided with the dung of dogs, which they oblige 
the accused to swallow immediately after, as it occasions their 
vomiting up the poison, 2 and thus an antidote is ready against 
the arts of these wretches. Before the time of their becoming 
subject to the dominion of the grand khan, these people were 
addicted to the following brutal custom. When any stranger 
of superior quality, who united personal beauty with distin 
guished valour, happened to take up his abode at the house of 
one of them, he was murdered during the night; not for the 
sake of his money, but in order that the spirit of the deceased, 
endowed with his accomplishments and intelligence, might 
remain with the family, and that through the efficacy of such 
an acquisition, all their concerns might prosper. Accordingly 
the individual was accounted fortunate who possessed in this 
manner the soul of any noble personage; and many lost their 
lives in consequence. But from the time of his majesty s 
beginning to rule the country, he has taken measures for sup 
pressing the horrid practice, and from the effect of severe 
punishments that have been inflicted, it has ceased to exist. 

1 It appears from hence that the practice of docking the tails of horses, 
by separating one or more of the vertebrae, which has become so common 
in England, existed many hundred years ago amongst the people of Yun 
nan, in the remotest part of China. 

2 Such might have been the vulgar belief respecting the substance 
employed as an emetic on these occasions, although perhaps with as 
little foundation as the idea entertained by the common people in Eng 
land that ipecacuanha is the powder of human bones. 

The Province of Kardandan 249 




PROCEEDING five days journey in a westerly direction from 
Karazan, you enter the province of Kardandan, belonging to 
the dominion of the grand khan, and of which the principal 
city is named Vochang. 1 The currency of this country is gold 
by weight, and also the porcelain shells. An ounce of gold 
is exchanged for five ounces of silver, and a saggio of gold for 
five saggi of silver; there being no silver mines in this country, 
but much gold; and consequently the merchants who import 
silver obtain a large profit. Both the men and the women of 
this province have the custom of covering their teeth with thin 
plates of gold, which are fitted with great nicety to the shape 
of the teeth, and remain on them continually. The men also 
form dark stripes or bands round their arms and legs, by 
puncturing them in the following manner. They have five 
needles joined together, which they press into the flesh until 
blood is drawn; and they then rub the punctures with a black 
colouring matter, which leaves an indelible mark. To bear 
these dark stripes is considered as an ornamental and honour 
able distinction. 2 They pay little attention to anything but 
horsemanship, the sports of the chase, and whatever belongs to 

1 What is here named the province of Kardandan, is in the B.M. and 
Berlin manuscripts, and old Latin edition, written Ardandam, in the 
Basle, Arcladam, and in the epitomes Caridi; none of which can be dis 
covered in Du Halde s map; but from the name of the chief city, which 
immediately follows, it is evident that the places spoken of are still 
within the limits of the modern province of Yun-nan. The name, indeed, 
of Vochang (or Vociam in the old Italian orthography), would have been 
equally unascertainable with that of the province, but that we are assisted 
in this instance by the readings of some of the other versions. In the 
early Latin edition the word in Uncian, in the Basle, Unchiam, and in 
the early edition of Venice, Nocian, which point out the place to be the 
city of Yung-chang, in the western part of Yun-nan. 

2 " D autres se marquent diverses figures sur leur visage," says Martini, 
speaking of the inhabitants of Yung-chang, " le percant avec une aiguille, 
et appliquant du noir, comme plusieurs Indiens ont accoustume de 
faire." Accounts of this practice of tatooing have been rendered familiar 
to us by the voyages to the South Sea islands; but it prevails also 
amongst the Birmah people of the kingdom of Ava, immediately con 
tiguous to Yun-nan. The custom is noticed by the old writers, and 
confirmed by the testimony of Colonel Symes, who says: "They (the 
Birmans) tatoo their thighs and arms into various fantastic shapes and 
figures, which they believe operate as a charm against the weapons of 
their enemies." -Embassy to Ava, p, 312. 

250 Travels of Marco Polo 

the use of arms and a military life; leaving the entire manage 
ment of their domestic concerns to their wives, who are assisted 
in their duties by slaves, either purchased or made prisoners in 

These people have the following singular usage. As soon 
as a woman has been delivered of a child, and, rising from her 
bed, has washed and swathed the infant, her husband im 
mediately takes the place she has left, has the child laid beside 
him, and nurses it for forty days. In the meantime, the 
friends and relations of the family pay to him their visits of 
congratulation; whilst the woman attends to the business of 
the house, carries victuals and drink to the husband in his bed, 
and suckles the infant at his side. These people eat their meat 
raw, or prepared in the manner that has been described, and 
along with it eat rice. Their wine is manufactured from rice, 
with a mixture of spices, and is a good beverage. 

In this district they have neither temples nor idols, but pay 
their worship to the elder or ancestor of the family, from 
whom, they say, as they derive their existence, so to him they 
are indebted for all that they possess. 1 They have no know 
ledge of any kind of writing, nor is this to be wondered at, con 
sidering the rude nature of the country, which is a mountainous 
tract, covered with the thickest forests. During the summer 
season, the atmosphere is so gloomy and unwholesome, that 
merchants and other strangers are obliged to leave the dis 
trict, in order to escape from death. 2 When the natives have 

1 This appears to have reference to the extraordinary respect known 
to be paid by the Chinese to their parents, or to the veneration, approach 
ing to an idolatrous worship, in which they hold the manes of their an 
cestors a superstition not only unconnected with the doctrines of the 
two prevailing sects, but religiously observed by those who hold the 
adoration of images in abhorrence. It seems probable that instead of 
" il piu vecchio di casa," or according to the epitome, " lo mazor de la 
casa," " the eldest person of the family," our author meant " the common 
ancestor; " for although the several descendants might subsist upon the 
patriarchal bounty of the former, they cannot be understood to have 
derived their possessions from him during his lifetime. 

2 Districts lying near the base of great ranges of mountains, and 
especially within the. tropical latitudes, are always found to be unhealthy. 
" At the foot of the Bootan mountains," says Turner, " a plain extends 
lor about thirty miles in breadth, choked, rather than clothed, with the 
most luxuriant vegetation. The exhalations necessarily arising from 
the multitude of springs which the vicinity of the mountains produces, 
are collected and confined by these almost impervious woods, and gene 
rate an atmosphere through which no traveller ever passed with im 
punity." (Embassy, p. 21.) This pestilential quality of the air extends 
westward, through what is called the Morung country, and by analogy 
may be supposed to prevail on the eastern side also, the Yun-nan moun 

Practices of the Sorcerers of Kardandan 251 

transactions of business with each other, which require them 
to execute any obligation for the amount of a debt or credit, 
their chief takes a square piece of wood, and divides it in two. 
Notches are then cut on it, denoting the sum in question, and 
each party receives one of the corresponding pieces, as is 
practised in respect to our tallies. Upon the expiration of the 
term, and payment made by the debtor, the creditor delivers 
up his counterpart, and both remain satisfied. 

Neither in this province, nor in the cities of Kaindu, 
Vochang, or Yachi, are to be found persons professing the art 
of physic. When a person of consequence is attacked with a 
disorder, his family send for those sorcerers who offer sacrifices 
to the idols, to whom the sick person gives an account of the 
nature of his complaint. The sorcerers thereupon give direc 
tions for the attendance of persons who perform on a variety 
of loud instruments, in order that they may dance and sing 
hymns in honour and praise of their idols; and which they 
continue to do, until the evil spirit has taken possession of one 
of them, when their musical exertions cease. They then 
inquire of the person so possessed the cause of the man s indis 
position, and the means that should be used for effecting his 
cure. The evil spirit answers by the mouth of him into whose 
body he has entered, that the sickness has been occasioned by 
an offence given to a certain deity. Upon which the sorcerers 
address their prayers to that deity, beseeching him to pardon 
the sinner, on the condition that when cured he shall offer a 
sacrifice of his own blood. But if the demon perceives that 
there is no prospect of a recovery, he pronounces the deity to 
be so grievously offended that no sacrifice can appease him. 
If, on the contrary, he judges that a cure is likely to take place, 
he requires that an offering be made of so many sheep with 
black heads; that so many sorcerers, with their wives, be 
assembled, and that the sacrifice be performed by their hands ; 
by which means, he says, the favour of the deity may be con 
ciliated. The relations comply immediately with all that has 
been demanded, the sheep are slain, their blood is sprinkled 
towards the heavens, the sorcerers (male and female) light up 
and perfume with incense the whole house of the sick person, 
making a smoke with wood of aloes. They cast into the air the 
water in which the flesh has been seethed, together with some 

tains being of great height, whilst the great Nu-kiang, said to be navigable 
between that province and Ava, must flow chiefly through a plain and 
comparatively low country. 

252 Travels of Marco Polo 

of the liquor brewed with spices; and then laugh, sing, and 
dance about, with the idea of doing honour to their idol or 
divinity. They next inquire of the demoniac whether, by the 
sacrifice that has been made, the idol is satisfied, or if it is his 
command that another be yet performed. When the answer 
is, that the propitiation has been satisfactory, the sorcerers of 
both sexes, who had not ceased their songs, thereupon seat 
themselves at the table, and proceed to feast on the meat that 
had been offered in sacrifice, and to drink the spiced liquor, of 
which a libation had been made, with signs of great hilarity. 
Having finished their meal, and received their fees, they return 
to their homes ; and if, through God s providence, the patient 
recovers, they attribute his cure to the idol for whom the sacri 
fice was performed ; but if he happens to die, they then declare 
that the rites had been rendered ineffective by those who 
dressed the victuals having presumed to taste them before the 
deity s portion had been presented to him. It must be under 
stood that ceremonies of this kind are not practised upon the 
illness of every individual, but only perhaps once or twice in the 
course of a month, for noble or wealthy personages. They are 
common, however, to all the idolatrous inhabitants of the whole 
provinces of Cathay and Manji, amongst whom a physician is 
a rare character. And thus do the demons sport with the 
blindness of these deluded and wretched people. 1 



BEFORE we proceed further (in describing the country), we 
shall speak of a memorable battle that was fought in this 
kingdom of Vochang (Unchang, or Yun-chang). It happened 
that in the year 1272 the grand khan sent an army into the 
countries of Vochang and Karazan, for their protection and 
defence against any attack that foreigners might attempt to 
make ; 2 for at this period he had not as yet appointed his own 

1 The sorcerers or wizards here spoken of are evidently the shamans 
or juggling priests of Fo, who are met with chiefly in the less civilized 
regions of Tartary, but who probably find their way into ail parts of the 

Chinese empire. 

2 This date of 1272 appears not omy in Ramusio s text, but in that of 
the Berlin manuscript and of the older Latin edition; whilst in the Basle 
copy (followed by Miiller) it is 1282. Some countenance is given to the 
latter date by a passage in L Histoire gen. de la Chine, torn. ix. p. 411. 

Great Battle of Vochang 253 

sons to the governments, which it was afterwards his policy to 
do; as in the instance of Cen-temur, for whom those places 
were erected into a principality. When the king of Mien 1 
and Bangala, 2 in India, who was powerful in the number of 
his subjects, in extent of territory, and in wealth, heard that 
an army of Tartars had arrived at Vochang, he took the resolu 
tion of advancing immediately to attack it, in order that by 
its destruction the grand khan should be deterred from again 
attempting to station a force upon the borders of his dominions. 
For this purpose he assembled a very large army, including a 
multitude of elephants (an animal with which his country 
abounds), upon whose backs were placed battlements or castles, 
of wood, capable of containing to the number of twelve or 
sixteen in each. With these, and a numerous army of horse 
and foot, he took the road to Vochang, where the grand khan s 
army lay, and encamping at no great distance from it, intended 
to give his troops a few days of rest. As soon as the approach 
of the king of Mien, with so great a force, was known to 
Nestardin, 3 who commanded the troops of the grand khan, 
although a brave and able officer, he felt much alarmed, not 
having under his orders more than twelve thousand men 
(veterans, indeed, and valiant soldiers); whereas the enemy 
had sixty thousand, besides the elephants armed as has been 
described. He did not, however, betray any sign of appre 
hension, but descending into the plain of Vochang, 4 took a 
position in which his flank was covered by a thick wood of 
large trees, whither, in case of a furious charge by the elephants, 
which his troops might not be able to sustain, they could retire, 

1 By P. Gaubil (or his commentator, P. Souciet), De Guignes, Grosier 
and D Anville, Mien has been considered as the name of the country of 
Pegu, but it is plainly meant for the Birmah country, or, as we usually 
term it, the kingdom of Ava, which nearly borders on the province of 
Yun-nan, whilst the other lies far to the southward, and is unconnected 
with any part of the Chinese territory. The name by which the Birmahs 
call their own country is M yam-ma ; by the Chinese writers it is named 

* In the Basle edition the words are, " rex Mien et rex Bangala," imply 
ing two confederated sovereigns, but the whole context shows that only 
one personage is intended, who might at that period have styled himself 
king of Bangala as well as of Mien, from the circumstance of his having 
conquered some eastern district belonging to Bengal, from which the 
country of Ava is separated only by forests. 

3 This name, which in Ramusio s version is Nestardin, is elsewhere 
written Neschardyn, Noscardyn, and Nastardyri; which are all corrup 
tions of the common Mahometan name of Nasr-eddin. 

4 This we may presume to be the plain through which the Irabatty, 
(otherwise written Irawaddy,) or great river of Ava runs, in the upper 
part of its course. 

254 Travels of Marco Polo 

and from thence, in security, annoy them with their arrows. 
Calling together the principal officers of his army, he exhorted 
them not to display less valour on the present occasion than 
they had done in all their preceding engagements, reminding 
them that victory did not depend upon the number of men, 
but upon courage and discipline. He represented to them that 
the troops of the king of Mien and Bangala were raw and un 
practised in the art of war, not having had the opportunities of 
acquiring experience that had fallen to their lot; that instead 
of being discouraged by the superior number of their foes, they 
ought to feel confidence in their own valour so often put to 
the test; that their very name was a subject of terror, not 
merely to the enemy before them, but to the whole world; 
and he concluded by promising to lead them to certain victory. 
Upon the king of Mien s learning that the Tartars had de 
scended into the plain, he immediately put his army in motion, 
took up his ground at the distance of about a mile from the 
enemy, and made a disposition of his force, placing the 
elephants in the front, and the cavalry and infantry, in two 
extended wings, in their rear, but leaving between them a con 
siderable interval. Here he took his own station, and proceeded 
to animate his men and encourage them to fight valiantly, 
assuring them of victory, as well from the superiority of their 
numbers, being four to one, as from their formidable body of 
armed elephants, whose shock the enemy, who had never be 
fore been engaged with such combatants, could by no means 
resist. Then giving orders for sounding a prodigious number 
of warlike instruments, he advanced boldly with his whole 
army towards that of the Tartars, which remained firm, 
making no movement, but suffering them to approach their 
entrenchments. They then rushed out with great spirit and 
the utmost eagerness to engage; but it was soon found that the 
Tartar horses, unused to the sight of such huge animals, with 
their castles, were terrified, and wheeling about endeavoured 
to fly; nor could their riders by any exertions restrain them, 
whilst the king, with the whole of his forces, was every moment 
gaining ground. As soon as the prudent commander per 
ceived this unexpected disorder, without losing his presence of 
mind, he instantly adopted the measure of ordering his men to 
dismount and their horses to be taken into the wood, where 
they were fastened to the trees. When dismounted, the men, 
without loss of time, advanced on foot towards the line of 
elephants, and commenced a brisk discharge of arrows ; whilst, 

Great Battle of Vochang 255 

on the other side, those who were stationed in the castles, and 
the rest of the king s army,, shot volleys in return with great 
activity; but their arrows did not make the same impression 
as those of the Tartars, whose bows were drawn with a stronger 
arm. So incessant were the discharges of the latter, and all 
their weapons (according to the instructions of their com 
mander) being directed against the elephants, these were 
soon covered with arrows, and, suddenly giving way, fell back 
upon their own people in the rear, who were thereby thrown 
into confusion. It soon became impossible for their drivers 
to manage them, either by force or address. Smarting under 
the pain of their wounds, and terrified by the shouting of the 
assailants, they were no longer governable, but without guid 
ance or control ran about in all directions, until at length, im 
pelled by rage and fear, they rushed into a part of the wood not 
occupied by the Tartars. The consequence of this was, that 
from the closeness of the branches of large trees, they broke, 
with loud crashes, the battlements or castles that were upon 
their backs, and involved in the destruction those who sat upon 
them. Upon seeing the rout of the elephants the Tartars 
acquired fresh courage, and filing off by detachments, with 
perfect order and regularity, they remounted their horses, and 
joined their several divisions, when a sanguinary and dreadful 
combat was renewed. On the part of the king s troops there 
was no want of valour, and he himself went amongst the ranks 
entreating them to stand firm, and not to be alarmed by the 
accident that had befallen the elephants. But the Tartars, 
by their consummate skill in archery, were too powerful for 
them, and galled them the more exceedingly, from their not 
being provided with such armour as was worn by the former, 
The arrows having been expended on both sides, the men 
grasped their s words and iron maces, and violently encoun 
tered each other. Then in an instant were to be seen manv 
horrible wounds, limbs dismembered, and multitudes falling 
to the ground, mained and dying; with such effusion of blood 
as was dreadful to behold. So great also was the clangour 
of arms, and such the shoutings and the shrieks, that the noise 
seemed to ascend to the skies. The king of Mien, acting as 
became a valiant chief, was present wherever the greatest 
danger appeared, animating his soldiers, and beseeching them 
to maintain their ground with resolution. He ordered fresh 
squadrons from the reserve to advance to the support of those 
that were exhausted; but perceiving at length that it was 


Travels of Marco Polo 

impossible any longer to sustain the conflict or to withstand the 
impetuosity of the Tartars, the greater part of his troops being 
either killed or wounded, and all the field covered with the 
carcases of men and horses, whilst those who survived were 
beginning to give way, he also found himself compelled to take 
to flight with the wreck of his army, numbers of whom were 
afterwards slain in the pursuit. 

The losses in this battle, which lasted from the morning till 
noon, were severely felt on both sides; but the Tartars were 
finally victorious ; a result that was materially to be attributed 
to the troops of the king of Mien and Bangala not wearing 
armour as the Tartars did, and to their elephants, especially 
those of the foremost line, being equally without that kind of 
defence, which, by enabling them to sustain the first discharges 
of the enemy s arrows, would have allowed them to break his 
ranks and throw him into disorder. A point perhaps of still 
greater importance is, that the king ought not to have made 
his attack on the Tartars in a position where their flank was 
supported by a wood, but should have endeavoured to draw 
them into the open country, where they could not have re 
sisted the first impetuous onset of the armed elephants, and 
where, by extending the cavalry of his two wings, he might 
have surrounded them. The Tartars having collected their 
force after the slaughter of the enemy, returned towards the 
wood into which the elephants had fled for shelter, in order to 
take possession of them, where they found that the men who 
had escaped from the overthrow were employed in cutting 
down trees and barricading the passages, with the intent of 
defending themselves. But their ramparts were soon de 
molished by the Tartars, who slew many of them, and with the 
assistance of the persons accustomed to the management of 
the elephants, they possessed themselves of these to the number 
of two hundred or more. From the period of this battle the 
grand khan has always chosen to employ elephants in his 
armies, which before that time he had not done. The conse 
quences of the victory were, that he acquired possession of the 
whole of the territories of the king of Bangala and Mien, and 
annexed them to his dominions* 

An Uninhabited Region 257 




LEAVING the province of Kardandan, you enter upon a vast 
descent, which you travel without variation for two days and 
a half, in the course of which no habitations are to be found. 
You then reach a spacious plain, 1 whereon, three days in every 
week, a number of trading people assemble, many of whom 
come down from the neighbouring mountains, bringing their 
gold to be exchanged for silver, which the merchants who 
repair thither from distant countries carry with them for this 
purpose; 2 and one saggio of gold is given for five of silver. 
The inhabitants are not allowed to be the exporters of their 
own gold, but must dispose of it to the merchants, who furnish 
them with such articles as they require; and as none but the 
natives themselves can gain access to the places of their resi 
dence, so high and strong are the situations, and so difficult of 
approach, it is on this account that the transactions of business 
are conducted in the plain. Beyond this, in a southerly 
direction, towards the confines of India, lies the city of Mien. 3 

1 This must be understood of the plain at the foot of the Yun-nan 
mountains, already spoken of, from whence the river is said to be navi 
gable to Ava. 

2 In consequence of the strict regulations of the Chinese with respect 
to the admission of strangers within the bounds of the empire, it becomes 
necessary for the purposes of trade or exchange of commodities, that 
fairs or markets should be held on the frontiers, where the merchants 
arrive at stated times with their goods. The principal article of export 
from Ava," says Symes, " is cotton. This commodity is transported 
up the Irrawaddy in large boats, as far as Bamoo, where it is bartered at 
the common jee or mart, with Chinese merchants, and conve3 :r ed by the 
latter, partly by land and partly by water, into the Chinese dominions." 
(P. 325.) Thus also at the village of Topa, near Sining, on the borders 
of Shen-si; " On y trouye," says Du Halde, " presque tout ce qu on pen 
souhaiter de marchandises etrangeres et de la Chine, diverses drogues, 
du saffran, des dattes, du caffe, etc." -Tom. i. p. 40. 

3 In this place there is a remarkable variation in the early Italian 
epitome from all the other versions, and being of some importance in a 
geographical point of view, I shall give the passage in its own words: 

1 Quando 1 huomo se parti de la provincia de Caraian ello trova una 
grande desmontada par laquale ello va doe zornade pur descendendo^ in 
laqual non e habitatione alchuna ma sige (glie) uno logo in loqual se fa 
festa Ire di a la setemena. Ivi se da uno sazo doro per v. dargento. 
E quando 1 homo e andado quelle v. zornade ello trova la provincia de 
Michai laquale confina con 1 India et e verso lo mezo di. L homo va ben 
xv. zornade per salvazi paesi. Ivi se trova molti elephanti e unicorni 
e molte bestie salvaze e non ge (glie) niuna habitation. Quando 


2 5 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

The journey occupies fifteen days, through a country much 
depopulated, and forests abounding with elephants, rhino 
ceroses, and other wild beasts, where there is not the appear 
ance of any habitation. 




AFTER the journey of fifteen days that has been mentioned, 
you reach the city of Mien, which is large, magnificent, and 
the capital of the kingdom. 1 The inhabitants are idolaters, 
and have a language peculiar to themselves. It is related 
that there formerly reigned in this country a rich and power 
ful monarch, who, when his death was drawing near, gave 
orders for erecting on the place of his interment, at the head 
and foot of the sepulchre, two pyramidal towers, entirely of 
marble, ten paces in height, of a proportionate bulk, and each 
terminating with a ball. 2 One of these pyramids was covered 
with a plate of gold an inch in thickness, so that nothing 

I homo e andado xv. zornade ello trpva una cita la qual ha nome Mien." 
(Capitoli xc. et xci.) From hence it is to be understood that upon de 
scending from the heights of Karaian or Yun-nan, you do not imme 
diately enter the country of Mien or Ava Proper, but after a journey of 
five days reach the province of Michai, which we may reasonably suppose 
to be the Meckley of our maps ; and from thence, after travelling fifteen 
days through forests, arrive at the capital. The space between Bengal 
and China," says Major Rennell, " is occupied by the province of Meckley, 
and other districts, subject to the king of Burmah or Ava: " and again; 
" The king of Burmah, whose reputed capital is Ava, and from whence 
the whole kingdom, though erroneously, is often denominated, is said 
to possess not only the country of Meckley, in addition to those of Pegu 
and Burmah, but also the whole tract which lies on the north of it, be 
tween China, Thibet, and Assam." -Mem. 3d edit. pp. 295 297. The 
mention of this intermediate province adds much to the consistency of 
the narrative. 

1 The present capital, called Ummerapoora or Amrapura, is a city of 
modern date. This of Mien must therefore either have been the old 
city of Ava, now in ruins, or some one of earlier times, the seat of govern 
ment having been often changed. " Pagahm," says Symes, " is said to 
have been the residence of forty-five successive monarchs, and was aban 
doned 500 years ago, in consequence of a divine admonition: whatever 
may be its true history, it certainly was once a place of no ordinary 
splendour." (P. 269.) The coincidence of dates is here remarkable, as 
the elapsed period of five centuries would place the ruin of Pagahm in 
1295, or just about the time of the Mungal conquest. 

a Temples of a pyramidal form, both with square and circular bases, 
are found wherever the religion of Buddha prevails. Many of these, on 
a magnificent scale, are described by Colonel Symes, in the course of his 
journey to Ava. 

The City of Mien 259 

besides the gold was visible; and the other with a plate of 
silver, of the same thickness. Around the balls were sus 
pended small bells of gold and of silver, which sounded when 
put in motion by the wind. 1 The whole formed a splendid 
object. The tomb was in like manner covered with a plate, 
partly of gold and partly of silver. This the king commanded 
to be prepared for the honour of his soul, and in order that 
his memory might not perish. The grand khan, having re 
solved upon taking possession of this city, sent thither a 
valiant officer to effect it, and the army, at its own desire, 
was accompanied by some of the jugglers or sorcerers, of 
whom there were always a great number about the court. 2 
When these entered the city, they observed the two pyramids 
so richly ornamented, but would not meddle with them until 
his majesty s pleasure respecting them should be known. 
The grand khan, upon being informed that they had been 
erected in pious memory of a former king, would not suffer 
them to be violated nor injured in the smallest degree; the 
Tartars being accustomed to consider as a heinous sin the 
removal of any article appertaining to the dead. 3 In this 
country were found many elephants, large and handsome 
wild oxen, 4 with stags, fallow deer, and other animals in great 

1 " Round the lower limb of the tee" says Symes, " are appended a 
number of bells, which, agitated by the wind, make a continual jingling." 
P. 189. 

2 In Ramusio s text these persons who accompanied the army are 
styled " giocolari overo bufforii, but in that of the early epitome, " zugo- 
lari e incantadori" which gives an intelligible sense; as we know, both 
from preceding passages of the work, arid from general information of 
the manners of these countries, that diviners or religious jugglers have 
always formed a part of the staff of a military chief, who is either in 
fluenced by their prognostications, or makes them subservient to his 
designs. Purchas in his version calls them " jesters," but in Harris s 
collection of voyages, edited by Campbell, and in some modern publi 
cations, the word " cavalry is discreetly substituted, as being more 
appropriate. There appears, however, to be something defective in the 
story, and that a sentence has been omitted, which should follow that 
in which the appointment of a valiant officer is mentioned. [In the 
Paris Latin text they are called histriones and joculatores.] 

3 This laudable respect shown by the Tartar tribes to the sanctity of 
the grave, has been the occasion of the Russians discovering in the 
burial places of these people a great number and variety of undisturbed 
articles, as well as large deposits of the precious metals, which former 
conquerors had not presumed to violate. 

4 This is not the chowry- tailed ox, yak, or bos gy -mini ens, described 
by Turner, and mentioned by our author in a former chapter, which 
is the native of a colder region, but the gayal, or bos gavceus, an animal 
found wild in the provinces on the eastern side of Bengal, and fully 
described in vol. viii. of the Asiat. Researches. 

260 Travels of Marco Polo 



THE province of Bangala is situated on the southern confines 
of India/ and was (not yet) brought under the dominion of 
the grand khan at the time of Marco Polo s residence at his 
court; (although) the operations against it occupied his army 
for a considerable period, the country being strong and its king 
powerful, as has been related. It has its peculiar language. 
The people are worshippers of idols, and amongst them there 
are teachers, at the head of schools for instruction in the prin 
ciples of their idolatrous religion and of necromancy, whose 
doctrine prevails amongst all ranks, including the nobles and 
chiefs of the country. 2 Oxen are found here almost as tall as 
elephants, but not equal to them in bulk. 3 The inhabitants 
live upon flesh, milk, and rice, of which they have abundance. 4 

1 The name of Bangala, as applied in this place to the kingdom of 
Bengal, approaches nearer to the genuine pronunciation and ortho 
graphy (Bangalah) than that in which we are accustomed to write the 

8 This passage has an obvious reference to the Hindu schools of philo 
sophy, where the doctrine of the Vedas and Sastras is explained by 
learned panditas and gurus, in all the principal cities of Bengal and Hin 
dustan. The ch handas, tantra sastra, or art of necromancy, is considered 
by these people as one of the six great " angas or bodies of learning." 

8 If it were fair to justify one exaggeration by another, the authority 
of a " British officer," quoted by Kerr and Turton in their translation 
of the Systema Nature of Linna3us, might be adduced in support of 
our author s account of the oxen of Bengal; the former of whom was 
led to describe and figure, under the name of bos arnee, an animal four 
teen feet in height, (but reduced by the latter to eight feet,) said to have 
been met in the country above Bengal; but which proves to be only the 
wild buffalo, there called arna. The buffalo, however, or bos bubalus, " a 
very large and formidable animal," is afterwards distinctly mentioned 
by our author; and what is here said can apply to no other than the 
gayal, or bos gav&iis, which abounds in some of the eastern districts, and 
can only in a figurative sense be compared to the elephant. 

4 Rice and milk are chief articles of sustenance with the natives of 
Bengal; but, although many of their castes are free from scruples about 
eating any kind of meat excepting beef, the assertion is too strong that 
ilesh is their ordinary food. It is evident, indeed, that our author s 
ideas of the country are formed upon what he had seen or learned of 
the people inhabiting the mountainous districts by which Bengal is 
bounded on the eastern side, where the manners are widely different 
from those which prevail on the banks of the Ganges, and where the 
gayal-ox, as well as deer, wild hogs, and wild animals in general, are 
commonly eaten as food. The nature and extent of the scruples of 
those amongst the mountaineers who profess Hinduism, may be 
judged of from the following passages in a paper by Mr. Colebrooke, 
in the Asiatic Researches: " The Hindus in this province (Chatgoan 

The Province of Kangigu 261 

Much cotton is grown in the country, and trade flourishes. 
Spikenard, galangal, ginger, sugar, and many sorts of drugs 
are amongst the productions of the soil ; 1 to purchase which 
the merchants from various parts of India resort thither. 
They likewise make purchases of eunuchs, of whom there are 
numbers in the country, as slaves ; for all the prisoners taken 
in war are presently emasculated; and as every prince and 
person of rank is desirous of having them for the custody of 
their women, the merchants obtain a large profit by carrying 
them to other kingdoms, and there disposing of them. 2 This 
province is thirty days 7 journey in extent, and at the eastern 
extremity of it lies a country named Kangigu. 



KANGIGU is a province situated towards the east, 3 and is 
governed by a king. The people are idolaters, have a peculiar 
language, and made a voluntary submission to the grand khan, 
to whom they pay an annual tribute. The king is so devoted 

or Chittagong) will not kill the gabay, which they hold in equal 
veneration with the cow ; but the asl-gdyal, or selo i, they hunt and kill, 
as they do the wild buffalo. The animal here alluded to is another species 
of gaydl found wild in the hills." 

1 These are well known productions of Bengal and the adjoining pro 
vinces; particularly the article of sugar, which is extensively cultivated, 
and exported to many parts of Asia, as well as to Europe. 

a That the courts and harems of India abounded with eunuchs, who 
often attained to the highest offices of the state, appears from all the 
histories of that country; but it is not generally understood that any 
number of them were supplied from Bengal. It must be observed, 
indeed, that, with the exception of a few meagre notices in Ferishta s 
history, we are ignorant of the affairs, and more especially of the manners, 
of the people of that country in the thirteenth century; and even the 
dates of inscriptions on some of the principal buildings in Gaur, or Luk- 
nauti, considered as its ancient capital, are no earlier than the fifteenth. 
From the writings of Barbosa, however, which were finished in 1516, 
and of the genuineness of which no well-informed reader can doubt, we 
learn that in his time the practice of emasculation prevailed there, 
although not amongst the Hindu natives, to whose ideas it would be 

3 The country here named Kangigu, in the older Latin version Kan- 
ziga, and in the early Italian epitome Cargingu, [in the Latin, Talugigla,] 
appearing to lie in the route from the eastern part of Bengal towards the 
northern part of the Birmah country, may be either the Cach har situated 
between Silhet and Meckley, or else Kassay, between the latter and Ava. 
The terminating syllable gu may probably be the Chinese word Uoue, or 
kue, kingdom," which will be seen in the Jesuits map to prevail in 
that quarter. 

262 Travels of Marco Polo 

to sensual pleasures, that he has about four hundred wives; 
and when he hears of any handsome woman, he sends for her, 
and adds her to the number. 1 Gold is found here in large 
quantities, and also many kinds of drugs; but, being an inland 
country, distant from the sea, there is little opportunity of 
vending them. There are elephants in abundance, and other 
beasts. The inhabitants live upon flesh, rice, and milk. They 
have no wine made from grapes, but prepare it from rice and a 
mixture of drugs. Both men and women have their bodies 
punctured all over, in figures of beasts and birds ; and there are 
among them practitioners whose sole employment it is to trace 
out these ornaments with the point of a needle, upon the 
hands, the legs, and the breast. When a black colouring stuff 
has been rubbed over these punctures, it is impossible, either 
by water or otherwise, to efface the marks. The man or woman 
who exhibits the greatest profusion of these figures, is esteemed 
the most handsome. 



AMU, also, is situated towards the east, 2 and its inhabitants are 
subjects of the grand khan. They are idolaters, and live upon 
the flesh of their cattle and the fruits of the earth. They have 
a peculiar language. The country produces many horses and 
oxen, which are sold to the itinerant merchants, and conveyed 
to India. Buffaloes also, as well as oxen, are numerous, 3 in 
consequence of the extent and excellence of the pastures. 
Both men and women wear rings, of gold and silver, upon their 
wrists, arms, and legs; but those of the females are the more 
costly. The distance between this province and that of 
Kangigu is twenty-five 4 days journey, and thence to Bangala 

1 In Mr. Colebrooke s paper (referred to in note 4 , p. 260) the raja of 
Cach har is spoken of as a Cshatriya of the Suryabansi race. In former 
times his territory may have been more extensive, and his revenue more 
adequate to the maintenance of a harem of such magnitude, than they 
are at the present day. The epitome reduces the number to one hundred : 
" Lo re ha ben cento moiere." 

8 Amu appears to correspond in situation with Bamu, which is de 
scribed by Symes as a frontier province between the kingdom of the 
Birmahs and Yun-nan in China. 

3 These are the bos bubalus and 605 gavceus. See note 3 , p. 260. 

[The Paris Latin text reads fifteen.] 

Province of Tholoman 263 

is twenty days* journey. .We shall now speak of a province 
named Tholoman, situated eight days journey from the 




THE province of Tholoman lies towards the east/ and its in 
habitants are idolaters. They have a peculiar language, and 
are subjects of the grand khan. The people are tall and good- 
looking ; their complexions inclining rather to brown than fair. 
They are just in their dealings, and brave in war. Many of 
their towns and castles are situated upon lofty mountains. 
They burn the bodies of their dead; and the bones that are 
not reduced to ashes, they put into wooden boxes, and carry 
them to the mountains, where they conceal them in caverns 
of the rocks, in order that no wild animal may disturb them. 2 
Abundance of gold is found here. For the ordinary small 
currency they use the porcelain shells that come from India; 
and this sort of money prevails also in the two before-men 
tioned provinces of Kangigu and Amu. Their food and drink 
are the same that has been already mentioned. 

1 No name resembling Tholoman, Toloman, or Coloman, as the word 
appears in different versions, is to be found in any map or description 
of these parts; but as the circumstances stated render it probable that 
the country spoken of is that of the people variously called Birmahs, 
Burrnahs, Bomans, and Burmans, we may conjecture that the word 
was intended for Po-lo-man, which is known to be the mode in which 
the Chinese pronounce Burmaa and Brahman, and by which they of en 
designate the people of India in general. 

2 The ceremonies practised by certain mountaineers of Ava or the 
Burmah country, named Kayn, bear a strong resemblance to what is 
here described: " They burn their dead," says Symes, " and aftenvards 
collect their ashes in an urn, which they convey to a house, where, if 
the urn contains the relics of a man, they keep it six days, if of a woman, 
five; after which it is carried to the place of interment and deposited 
in a grave, and on the sod that covers it is laid a wooden image of the 
deceased to pray to the mourning (deity) and protect the bones and 
ashes." He added, " that the mourning resided on the great mountain 
Gnowa, where the images of the dead are deposited." Embassy to 
Ava, p. 447- 


Travels of Marco Polo 




LEAVING the province of Tholoman, and pursuing a course 
towards the east/ you travel for twelve days by a river, on 
each side of which lie many towns and castles ; when at length 
you reach the large and handsome city of Chintigui, 2 the in 
habitants of which are idolaters, and are the subjects of the 
grand khan. They are traders and artisans. They make 
cloth of the bark of certain trees, which looks well, and is the 
ordinary summer clothing of both sexes. The men are brave 
warriors. They have no other kind of money than the stamped 
paper of the grand khan. 3 

In this province the tigers are so numerous, that the inhabi 
tants, from apprehension of their ravages, cannot venture to 
sleep at night out of their towns ; and those who navigate the 
river dare not go to rest with their boats moored near the banks ; 
for these animals have been known to plunge into the water, 
swim to the vessel, and drag the men from thence; but find it 

1 The countries last spoken of appear indubitably to have belonged 
to that region which geographers term " India extra Gangem." These 
our author s route now leaves behind, and what follows in the remain 
ing chapters of this book applies only to China or its immediate de 

2 We cannot discover in the southern part of Yun-nan (towards which 
he might be supposed to have returned) any city resembling Chinti-gui 
or Chinti-giu in name; but a material difference between the text of 
Ramusio and those of the other versions occurs here, which might be 
hoped to afford a clue for tracing the progress of the route. According 
to the former our author prosecutes his journey from Tholoman by the 
course of a river (whether wholly or in part only, is not clearly expressed) 
to the city above mentioned. In the Basle edition, on the contrary, it 
is said : "A provincia Tholoman ducit iter versus orientem ad provinciam 
Gingui, iturque duodecim diebus juxta fluvium quendam, donee per- 
veniatur ad civitatem grandem Sinuglu: " and in the early Italian epi 
tome, " Cuigui sie una provincia verso oriente laqual ello trovo Phomo 
quando se parti da Toloman tu vai su per uno flume per xii. zornade tro- 
vando cita e castelli: e trovi la cita de Similgu grande e nobile; " to 
which city of Sinulgu or Similgu are attributed all the circumstances 
above related of Cintigui. [The name in the Paris Latin text is Funil- 
gul.] If the reading of Cui-gui or Kui-giu be more correct than the 
others, we might conjecture it to be intended for the Chinese province 
of Koei-cheu or Quei-cheu, which, adjoining to that of Yun-nan on the 
eastern side, would be in point of direction no unlikely road to the capital. 

3 The circumstance of the emperor s paper money being current, 
shows that the country here spoken of was an integral part of the empire, 
and not one of its remote dependencies, where the sovereignty was more 
nominal than real 

Abundance of Tigers 265 

necessary to anchor in the middle of the stream, where, in 
consequence of its great width, they are in safety. 1 In this 
country are likewise found the largest and fiercest dogs that 
can be met with : so courageous and powerful are they, that a 
man, with a couple of them, may be an over-match for a tiger. 
Armed with a bow and arrows, and thus attended, should he 
meet a tiger, he sets on his intrepid dogs, who instantly advance 
to the attack. The animal instinctively seeks a tree, against 
which to place himself, in order that the dogs may not be able 
to get behind him, and that he may have his enemies in front. 
With this intent, as soon as he perceives the dogs, he makes 
towards the tree, but with a slow pace, and by no means run 
ning, that he may not show any signs of fear, which his pride 
would not allow. During this deliberate movement, the dogs 
fasten upon him, and the man plies him with his arrows. He, 
in his turn, endeavours to seize the dogs, but they are too 
nimble for him, and draw back, when he resumes his slow 
march; but before he can gain his position, he has been 
wounded by so many arrows, and so often bitten by the dogs, 
that he falls through weakness and from loss of blood. By 
these means it is that he is at length taken. 2 

There is here an extensive manufacture of silks, which are 
exported in large quantities to other parts 3 by the navigation 
of the river, which continues to pass amongst towns and 
castles; and the people subsist entirely by trade. At the end 
of twelve days, you arrive at the city of Sidin-fu, of which an 
account has been already given. 4 From thence, in twenty 

1 Numerous instances are recorded of boats being attacked at night 
by tigers, amongst the alluvial islands at the mouth of the Ganges, 
called the Sunderbunds, and sometimes it happens that whole crews are 
destroyed whilst sleeping on board. 

2 If the beast here spoken of be actually the tiger and not the lion 
(of which latter none are found in China), it must be confessed that the 
manners ascribed to him in this story are very different from those 
which usually mark his feline character. In the old English version of 
1579 (from the Spanish), it is not the lion or tiger, but the elephant 
that is said to be the subject of this mode of baiting with " mastie- 
dogges." I am assured, however, that dogs do attack both tigers and 

3 The trade in wrought silks denotes this to be a place in China, and 
to the south of the Yellow River, beyond which the silkworm is not 
reared for the purposes of manufacture. 

4 From the context we might be led to infer that the Si-din-fu here 
spoken of should be the same place as the Chinti-gui mentioned at the 
commencement of this chapter, inasmuch as the journey of twelve days 
from Tholoman is here again referred to; but on the other hand we are 
much more clearly given to understand that it is the city before described 
(in chap, xxxvi.) by the name of Sin-din-fa, and which was shown (in 

266 Travels of Marco Polo 

days, you reach Gin-gui, in which we were, and in four days 
more the city of Pazan-fu, 1 which belongs to Cathay, and lies 
towards the south, in returning by the other side of the pro 
vince. 2 The inhabitants worship idols, and burn the bodies of 

note 1 , p. 234) to be intended for Ching-tu-fu, the capital of the province 
of Se-chuen. This would lie in the route from Ava and the province of 
Yun-nan towards the city of Pekin. 

1 In this part of the work, indeed, we perceive a more than usual 
degree of perplexity in the geographical matter, which is increased by 
a want of agreement in the several versions, not merely in orthography, 
but in the entire names of places as well as in circumstances. The 
journey of twenty days stated in Ramusio s text is not mentioned either 
in the Latin version or early Italian epitome, and it appears in the first 
instance uncertain whether by Gin-gui is here meant that southern pro 
vince which in the latter is named Cui-gui, and has been conjectured to 
be Koci-cheu, or whether it may have been intended for Kin-cheu on the 
Kiang, or (admitting a large hiatus in the journal) for another Kin-cheu 
in the province of Pe-che-li. For the city, likewise, which Ramusio 
names Pazan-fu, the other versions speak of Caucasu or Cancasu. But 
in addition to the confusion of names, we have, at this point, a new diffi 
culty to contend with; for as the general course of the journey has 
latterly been to the east, as expressed in the text, or to the north-east, as 
inferred from positions, so at this place, and from henceforward, we find 
it described as tending to the south ; although from the preceding chap 
ters it might seem that the southern provinces of China had been but 
just entered from the side of Mien or Ava. Our author s want of accu 
racy in bearings, as they respect the intermediate points of the compass, 
has often required the exercise of indulgence: but this cannot be ex 
tended to the mistaking north for south ; nor would even a correction of 
this nature in one or two instances avail us; for we shall presently find 
him approaching the Yellow River from the northern side, crossing that 
river, and, in the continuance of his southerly course, describing well- 
known places between it and the Kiang, which he likewise crosses in his 
way to the province of Fo-kien. It is consequently in one or other of 
the most northern provinces that we should make our search for Pazan-fu, 
and we shall be fully justified in drawing the conclusion, that a fresh 
itinerary, hitherto unnoticed, as it would seem, by any editor or com 
mentator, has commenced from some place in the vicinity of the capital ; 
and that the fruitless attempt to connect this with the former route, as 
constituting one journey, has chiefly given rise to the confusion of 
which every reader who has endeavoured to follow the course of the 
travels must have found reason to complain. 

a It has been shown that about a mile from the town of Tso-cheu, in 
the province of Pe-che-li, the roads are said to divide, the one leading to 
the south-western, and the other to the south-eastern provinces. The 
first was that which our author pursued in his former route, and has 
described to a certain point, where either his original memoranda left 
it incomplete, or his early transcribers, to avoid the monotonous repeti 
tion of unknown and to them uninteresting names, were induced to 
terminate it abruptly. The latter road, to the south-east, is that upon 
which he is now about to enter. Under the conviction, therefore, of a 
new intinerary having commenced about this part of the narrative from 
some place near Tso-cheu, where the roads divide, we are naturally led 
to consider the city now called Ho-kien-fu (the first in the southern 
route) as the Pa-zan-fu of Ramusio s text, or Ca-cau-su (for fu) of the 
Basle edition; the probability of which, however discordant the sound 
of the names, we shall find to be strengthened as we proceed to the ac 
count of places subsequently visited. Ho-kien-fu (the first syllable of 

The City of Chan-glu 267 

their dead. There are here also certain Christians, who have 
a church. 1 They are subjects of the grand khan, and his 
paper money is current among them. They gain their living 
by trade and manufacture, having silk in abundance, of which 
they weave tissues mixed with gold, and also very fine scarfs. 
This city has many towns and castles under its jurisdiction: 
a great river flows beside it, by means of which large quan 
tities of merchandise are conveyed to the city of Kanbalu; 
for by the digging of many canals it is made to communicate 
with the capital. But we shall take our leave of this, and, 
proceeding three days journey, speak of another city named 



CHAN-GLU is a large city situated towards the south, 2 and is 
in the province of Cathay. It is under the dominion of the 
grand khan. The inhabitants worship idols, and burn the 
bodies of their dead. The stamped paper of the emperor is 
current amongst them. In this city and the district surround 
ing it they make great quantities of salt, by the following pro 
cess: in the country is found a salsuginous earth; upon this, 
when laid in large heaps, they pour water, which in its passage 
through the mass imbibes the particles of salt, and is then 
collected in channels, from whence it is conveyed to very 
wide pans, not more than four inches in depth. In these it 
is well boiled, and then left to crystallize. The salt thus made 
is white and good, and is exported to various parts. 3 Great 

which a Tartar would pronounce Ko) is the third city of the province in 
rank, and derives its name from its position " between the rivers." 

1 The expression of cerli Christiani may either mean a sect of Christians 
distinct from the Nestorians, already so often mentioned, or may refer 
to the Nestorians themselves, as a sort of Christians, not Catholic. 

\To the eastward of Ho-kien, but inclining to the south, we find a 
city of the second order, dependent on the jurisdiction of the former, 
which in Du Halde s map is properly named Tsan-tcheu, but in Martini s 
Atlas, Cang-cheu, incorrectly for Cang-cheu. This is evidently Cianglu 
or Chang-lu here mentioned. 

3 From this detail of the process it may be thought that nitre or salt 
petre, rather than common salt, is the article so procured. The follow 
ing passage, from the translation of Abbe Grosier s Description generate 
de la Chine, will leave no doubt on this point: " The earth which forms 
the soil of Petcheli abounds with nitre; whole fields may be seen in the 
neighbourhood of Pe-king which are covered with it. Every morning 

268 Travels of Marco Polo 

profits are made by those who manufacture it, and the grand 
khan derives from it a considerable revenue. This district 
produces abundance of well-flavoured peaches, of such a size 
that one of them will weigh two pounds troy-weight. 1 We 
shall now speak of another city, named Chan-gli. 



CHAN-GLI also is a city of Cathay, 2 situated towards the south, 
and belonging to the grand khan, the inhabitants of which are 
idolaters, and in like manner make use of the khan s paper 
currency. Its distance from Chan-glu is five days journey, 
in the course of which you pass many cities and castles likewise 
in the dominions of the grand khan. They are places of great 
commerce, and the customs levied at them amount to a large 
sum. 3 Through this city passes a wide and deep river, which 
affords conveyance to vast quantities of merchandise, con 
sisting of silk, drugs, and other valuable articles. We shall 
now take leave of this place, and give an account of another 
city named Tudin-fu. 



WHEN you depart from Chan-gli, and travel southwards six 
days journey, you pass many towns and castles of great im- 

at sunrise the country in certain cantons appears as white as if sprinkled 
by a gentle fall of snow. If a quantity of this substance be swept 
together, a great deal of kien, nitre, and salt may be extracted from it. 
The Chinese pretend that this salt may be substituted for common salt; 
however this may be, it is certain that in the (mountainous) extremity 
of the province, poor people and the greater part of the peasants make 
use of no other. With regard to the kien procured from the earth, they 
use it for washing linen, as we do soap." Vol. i. p. 27. 

1 " Peso alia sottile " is explained in the dictionaries by " poids de 
marchandises fines, plus leger que 1 autre," which corresponds to the 
difference of fourteen and seventeen, between our troy and avoirdupois 

2 The city of Ciangli or Changli appears to be that of Te-cheu, situated 
at the entrance of the province of Shan-tung, on the river called Oei-ho 
in Du Halde s map, and Eu-ho, in the account of Lord Macartney s 

3 A transit duty (Staunton observes) is laid on goods passing from one 

The City of Tudin-fu 269 

portance and grandeur, whose inhabitants worship idols, and 
burn the bodies of their dead. They are the subjects of the 
grand khan, and receive his paper money as currency. They 
subsist by trade and manufactures, and have provisions in 
abundance. At the end of these six days you arrive at a city 
named Tudin-fu, 1 which was formerly a magnificent capital, 
but the grand khan reduced it to his subjection by force of 
arms. It is rendered a delightful residence by the gardens 
which surround it, stored as they are with handsome shrubs 
and excellent fruits. 2 Silk is produced here in wonderfully 
large quantities. It has under its jurisdiction eleven cities 
and considerable towns of the empire, all places of great trade, 
and having abundance of silk. It was the seat of government 
of its own king, before the period of its reduction by the grand 
khan. In 1272 3 the latter appointed one of his officers of the 
highest rank, named Lucansor, to the government of this city, 
with a command of seventy thousand horse, for the protection 
of that part of the country. This man upon finding himself 
master of a rich and highly productive district, and at the 
head of so powerful a force, became intoxicated with pride, and 
formed schemes of rebellion against his sovereign. With this 
view he tampered with the principal persons of the city, per 
suaded them to become partakers in his evil designs, and by 
their means succeeded in producing a revolt throughout all 
the towns and fortified places of the province. As soon as the 
grand khan became acquainted with these traitorous proceed 
ings, he despatched to that quarter an army of a hundred thou 
sand men, under the orders of two others of his nobles, one of 
whom was named Angul and the other Mongatai. When the 
approach of this force was known to Lucansor, he lost no time 

province of China to another; each province being noted, chiefly, for 
the production of some particular article, the conveyance of which, to 
supply the demand for it in the others, raises this duty to a considerable 
sum, and forms the great internal commerce and revenue of the empire. 

1 We have historical evidence that Tudin-fu is Tsi-nan-fu (by Martini 
written Cinan-fu), the capital of the province of Shan-tung. 

2 The routes of our modern travellers have not led them to visit this 
city, but that of the Dutch embassy of 1795, in its return, passed through 
several of the towns under its jurisdiction. Upon the approach to one 
of these named Ping-yuen-shen, Van Braam describes the scenery in 
terms similar to, but more luxuriant than those employed by our author, 
and the orchards of fruit are particularly noticed. 

8 The circumstance of which our author proceeds to speak, is, by 
L Histoire generale de la Chine, assigned to a period ten years earlier. 
The Roman numerals, in which dates are expressed in the old manu 
scripts, are more liable to errors than the Arabic, or rather Indian figures, 
now in use. 

270 Travels of Marco Polo 

in assembling an army no less numerous than that of his oppo 
nents, and brought them as speedily as possible to action. 
There was much slaughter on both sides, when at length, 
Lucansor being killed, his troops betook themselves to flight. 
Many were slain in the pursuit, and many were made prisoners. 
These were conducted to the presence of the grand khan, who 
caused the principals to be put to death, and pardoning the 
others took them into his own service, to which they ever 
afterwards continued faithful. 



TRAVELLING from Tudin-fu three days, in a southerly direction, 
you pass many considerable towns and strong places, where 
commerce and manufactures flourish. The inhabitants are 
idolaters, and are subjects of the grand khan. The country 
abounds with game, both beasts and birds, and produces an 
ample supply of the necessaries of life. At the end of three 
days you arrive at the city of Singui-matu, 1 which is noble, 
large, and handsome, and rich in merchandise and manufac 
tures ; all the inhabitants of this city are idolaters, and are sub 
jects of the grand khan and use paper money; within it, but 
on the southern side, passes a large and deep river, which the 
inhabitants divided into two branches, one of which, taking its 
course to the east, runs through Cathay, whilst the other, 
taking a westerly course, passes towards the province of 
Manji. 2 This river is navigated by so many vessels that the 

1 The circumstances here mentioned of Sin-gui-matu seem to point to 
the large commercial town of Lin-tsin-cheu, situated at the northern 
extremity, or commencement, of the Yun-ho or grand canal. The term 
matu or mateou, subjoined to names, signifies, as we are told by Du Halde 
(torn. i. p. 137), " lieux de commerce etablis sur les rivieres, pour la com- 
modite des negocians et la levee des droits de Pempereur; " and by P. 
Magalhanes, md-teti is denned to be, " lieu frequente pour le commerce; 
parceque les barques s y assemblent et y jettent 1 ancre pour y passer la 
nuit." Nouv. Relat. de la Chine, p. 9. 

2 These expressions might be considered as intended to describe the 
formation of the canal itself, which must, of course, have been supplied 
with water by diverting so much of the stream of the river as was neces 
sary for that purpose; and the operation might consequently be said to 
divide it into two branches; but they may be thought rather to refer to 
the following curious circumstance noticed in the Account of Lord 
Macartney s Embassy: " On the 25th of October (the third day after its 
departure from Lin-tsing) the yachts arrived at the highest part of the 

The City of Singui-matu 271 

number might seem incredible, and serves to convey from both 
provinces, that is, from the one province to the other, every 
requisite article of consumption. It is indeed surprising to 
observe the multitude and the size of the vessels that are 
continually passing and repassing, laden with merchandise of 
the greatest value. 1 On leaving Singui-matu and travelling 
towards the south for sixteen days, you unceasingly meet 
with commercial towns and with castles. The people 
throughout the country are idolaters, and subjects of the grand 
khan. They burn the bodies of their dead and use paper 
money. At the end of eight days journey you find a city 
named Lingui. It is a very noble and great city; the men 
are warlike; and it has manufactures and commerce. There 
are plenty of animals, and abundance of everything for eating 
and drinking. After leaving Lingui you proceed three days 
journey to the south, passing plenty of cities and castles, all 
under the grand khan. All the inhabitants are idolaters, and 
burn their dead. At the end of these three days you find a 
good city called Pingui, where there are all the necessaries of 
life, and this city furnishes a great revenue to the grand khan. 
You go thence two days journey to the south, through fair and 
rich countries, to a city called Cingui, which is very large, and 
abounding in commerce and manufactures. All its inhabitants 
are idolaters and burn their dead ; they use paper money, and 
are subjects of the grand khan. They have much grain and 
wheat. In the country through which you pass subsequently, 
you find cities, towns, and castles, and very handsome and 
useful dogs, and abundance of wheat. The people resemble 
those just described. 

canal, being about two-fifths of its entire length. Here the river Luen, 
the largest by which the canal is fed, falls into it with a rapid stream, in 
a line which is perpendicular to the course of the canal. A strong bul 
wark of stone supports the opposite western bank; and the waters of 
the Luen striking with force against it, part of them follow the northern, 
and part the southern course of the canal a circumstance which, not 
being generally explained or understood, gave the appearance of wonder 
to an assertion, that if a bundle of sticks be thrown into that part of the 
river, they would soon separate and take opposite directions." (Vol. 
ii. p. 387.) The name of this place is Tci-ngin-tcheou in Du Halde s 
map, and Tsin-jin-tchoo in that of the Embassy; which bears an evi 
dent resemblance to the Sin-gui of our text. 

1 " I should say, that next to the exuberance of population," says Mr. 
Ellis, " the amount of vessels employed on the rivers is the most striking 
circumstance hitherto observed, belonging to the Chinese empire." 
J ournal of an Embassy, etc. p. 109. 

272 Travels of Marco Polo 



AT the end of two days journey you reach, once more, the 
great river Kara-moran, 1 which has its source in the territories 
that belonged to Prester John. It is a mile wide and of vast 
depth, and upon its waters great ships freely sail with their 
full loading. Large fish in considerable quantities are caught 
there. At a place in this river, about a mile distant from the 
sea, there is a station for fifteen thousand vessels, each of them 
capable of carrying fifteen horses and twenty men, besides the 
crews to navigate them, and the necessary stores and pro 
visions. 2 These the grand khan causes to be kept in a constant 
state of readiness for the conveyance of an army to any of the 
islands in the (neighbouring) ocean that may happen to be in 
rebellion, or for expeditions to any more distant region. These 
vessels are moored close to the bank of the river, not far from 
a city named Koi-gan-zu, 3 on the opposite side to which is 
another named Kuan-zu, but the former is a large place, and 
the latter a small one. 4 Uponcrossing this river you enter the 
noble province of Manji; but it must not be understood that a 
complete account has been given of the province of Cathay. 
Not the twentieth part have I described. Marco Polo, in 

1 This is the Tartar name for the great river by the Chinese called the 
Hoang-ho, and by us the Yellow River, which has its source in the 
country between the western borders of China and the great desert. 

2 The number of fifteen thousand must be a prodigious exaggeration, 
if we should not rather suppose it to be an error in transcribing. The 
early Italian epitome says fifteen vessels; but this is an absurdity in the 
opposite extreme, and it is probable that fifteen hundred was the number 
intended. The station of these transports, instead of being one mile, 
is said in other versions to be one day s journey from the sea. 

3 Both from its situation and the resemblance of name, we cannot 
hesitate to consider this as the city of Hoai-gnan-fu, which stands near 
the south-eastern bank of the Hoang-ho, at the part where it is crossed 
by the line of the grand canal, and is itself connected, by means of a 
small cut, with that river. All Chinese words commencing with the 
aspirate are pronounced by the Western Tartars with a hard guttural 
sound; as, on the other hand, the guttural articulation of these people 
is softened by the Chinese to the aspirate: thus for Khan they pronounce 
Han; for Ko-ko-nor (a certain great lake), Ho-ho-nor; and for Ku- 
tukh-tu (the second rank of lamas), Hu-tu-tu. 

4 The place here named Kuan-zu or Quan-zu, in the Basle edition 
Cai-gui, and in the early epitomes Cai-cui, does not appear in the maps, 
but seems to be the place which De Guignes mentions by the name of 

i The Province of Manji 273 

travelling through the province, has only noted such cities as 
lay in his route, omitting those situated on the one side and the 
other, as well as many intermediate places, because a relation 
cf them all would be a work of too great length, and prove 
fatiguing to the reader. Leaving these parts we shall there 
fore proceed to speak, in the first instance, of the manner in 
which the province of Manji was acquired, and then of its cities, 
the magnificence and riches of which shall be set forth in the 
subsequent part of our discourse. 



THE province of Manji is the most magnificent and the richest 
that is known in the eastern world. 1 About the year 1269 
it was subject to a prince who was styled Facfur, 2 and who 
surpassed in power and wealth any other that for a century 
had reigned in that country. His disposition was pacific, and 
his actions benevolent. So much was he beloved by his 
people, and such the strength of his kingdom, enclosed by 
rivers of the largest size, that his being molested by any power 
upon earth was regarded as an impossible event. The effect 
of this opinion was, that he neither paid any attention him 
self to military affairs, nor encouraged his people to become 
acquainted with military exercises. The cities of his dominions 
were remarkably well fortified, being surrounded by deep 
ditches, a bow-shot in width, and full of water. He did not 
keep up any force in cavalry, because he was not apprehensive 
of attack. The means of increasing his enjoyments and multi- 

1 We have not materials for assigning precise boundaries either to 
Manji or to Khatai; but it is evident that our author considered, gene 
rally, that part of China which lies southward of the Hoang-ho, or Yellow 
River, as belonging to what he terms the province of Manji, or, with some 
few limitations, to the empire of the Song; >and the part that lies north 
ward of that river, which was conquered by the Mungals, not from the 
Chinese, but from the dynasty of the Kin or Niuche Tartars, by whom 
it had been previously subdued, as Khatai or Cathay. 

2 This word Facfur was not the name of the individual prince, but 
the title of Faghfur, applied by the Arabs and other Eastern people to 
the emperors of China, as distinguished from the Tartar sovereigns. It 
also denotes (according to the dictionaries) the porcelain of China-ware, 
and probably, in general, what the French term " magots de la Chine." 
The name of the emperor who reigned at that period was Tu-tsong. 

274 Travels of Marco Polo 

plying his pleasures were the chief employment of his thoughts. 
He. maintained at his court, and kept near his person, about a 
thousand beautiful women, in whose society he took delight. 
He was a friend to peace and to justice, which he administered 
strictly. The smallest act of oppression, or injury of any kind, 
committed by one man against another, was punished in an 
exemplary manner, without respect of persons. Such indeed 
was the impression of his justice, that when shops, filled with 
goods, happened, through the negligence of the owners, to 
be left open, no person dared to enter them, or to rob them of 
the smallest article. Travellers of all descriptions might pass 
through every part of the kingdom, by night as well as by day, 
freely and without apprehension of danger. He was religious, 
and charitable to the poor and needy. 1 Children whom their 
wretched mothers exposed in consequence of their inability to 
rear them, he caused to be saved and taken care of, to the num 
ber of twenty thousand annually. 2 When the boys attained a 
sufficient age, he had them instructed in some handicraft, and 
afterwards married them to young women who were brought 
up in the same manner. 3 

Very different from the temper and habits of Facfur were 
those of Kublai-khan, emperor of the Tartars, whose whole 
delight consisted in thoughts of a warlike nature, of the con 
quest of countries, and of extending his renown. After having 

1 His character is painted in more favourable colours by our author 
than by the Chinese historians, who do not relieve its dark shades with 
the light of any virtue. 

2 The practice in China of exposing infants, and especially females, 
has become matter of notoriety since this first and unequivocal notice 
of it by our author. The number of children," says Barrow, " thus 
unnaturally and inhumanly slaughtered, or interred alive, in the course 
of a year, is differently stated by different authors, some making it about 
ten, and others thirty thousand in the whole empire. The truth, as 
generally happens, may probably lie about the middle. The missionaries, 
who alone possess the means of ascertaining nearly the number that is 
thus sacrificed in the capital, differ very materially in their statements: 
taking the mean, as given by those with whom we conversed on the 
subject, I should conclude that about twenty-four infants were on an 
average, in Pekin, daily carried to the pit of death. . . . This calcula 
tion gives about nine thousand yearly for the capital alone, where it is 
supposed about an equal number are exposed to that of all the other 
parts of the empire." Travels in China, p. 169. 

8 The Latin edition describes the manner in which the emperor pro 
vided for a part of these children, in the following terms: " Rex tamen 
infantes, quos sic colligi jubet, tradit divitibus quibusque, quos in regno 
suo habet; praesertim illis qui liberis carent, et lit in adoptionis sus- 
cipiant filios mandat. Eos vero quos ipse nutrit, matrimonio tradit 
puellis ejusdem conditionis." It appears that in the reign of Kang-hi, 
also, (who died in 1722,) there was a public establishment at Pekin foi 
the recovery of infants so exposed. 

Conquest of Manji 275 

annexed to his dominions a number of provinces and kingdoms, 
he now directed his views to the subduing that of Manji, and 
for this purpose assembled a numerous army of horse and foot, 
the command of which he gave to a general named Chin-san 
Bay -an, which signifies in our language, the " Hundred -eyed." 1 
This occurred in the year 1273. A number of vessels were put 
under his orders, with which he proceeded to the invasion of 
Manji. Upon landing there, he immediately summoned the 
inhabitants of the city of Koi-gan-zu to surrender to the 
authority of his sovereign. 2 Upon their refusal to comply, 
instead of giving orders for an assault, he advanced to the next 
city, and when he there received a similar answer, proceeded 
to a third and a fourth, with the same result. Deeming it no 
longer prudent to leave so many cities in his rear, whilst not 
only his army was strong, but he expected to be soon joined by 
another of equal force, which the grand khan was to send to him 
from the interior, 3 he resolved upon the attack of one of these 
cities; and having, by great exertions and consummate skill, 
succeeded in carrying the place, he put every individual found 
in it to the sword. As soon as the intelligence of this event 
reached the other cities, it struck their inhabitants with 
such consternation and terror, that of their own accord they 
hastened to declare their submission. This being effected, he 
advanced, with the united force of his two armies, against the 
royal city of Kinsai, the residence of king Facfur, who felt all 
the agitation and dread of a person who had never seen a 
battle, nor been engaged in any sort of warfare. Alarmed 
for the safety of his person, he made his escape to a fleet of 
vessels that lay in readiness for the purpose, and embarking 
all his treasure and valuable effects, left the charge of the city 
to his queen, with directions for its being defended to the 
utmost; feeling assured that her sex would be a protection to 
her, in the event of her falling into the hands of the enemy. 
He from thence proceeded to sea, and reaching certain islands, 
where were some strongly fortified posts, he continued there 

1 Ba-yan, or, as the Chinese pronounce the name, Pe-yen, literally 
signifies, in that language, " a hundred eyes," *and may be considered 
as the agnomen or epithet of this distinguished warrior, derived from his 
vigilance, circumspection, and quickness in improving an advantage. 

2 The earliest operation of the war against the Song, or dynasty who 
reigned in Manji, took place (according to L Hist. gen.) to the westward, 
at Siang-yang, which was invested in 1269 (before our author s arrival 
in Chi-ia),valthough not captured till 1273. 

3 This was perhaps the army that had been employed in the reduction 
of Siang yang. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

till his death. 1 After the queen had been left in the mannei 
related, it is said to have come to her knowledge that the king 
had been told by his astrologers that he could never be de 
prived of his sovereignty by any other than a chief who should 
have a hundred eyes. On the strength of this declaration she 
felt confident, notwithstanding that the city became daily 
more and more straitened, that it could not be lost, because it 
seemed a thing impossible that any mortal could have that 
number of eyes. Inquiring, however, the name of the general 
who commanded the enemy s troops, and being told it was 
Chin-san Bay-an, which means a hundred eyes, she was seized 
with horror at hearing it pronounced, as she felt a conviction 
that this must be the person who, according to the saying of 
the astrologers, might drive her husband from his throne. 
Overcome by womanish fear, she no longer attempted to make 
resistance, but immediately surrendered. 2 Being thus in 
possession of the capital, the Tartars soon brought the re 
mainder of the province under their subjection. 3 The queen 
was sent to the presence of Kublai-khan, where she was 
honourably received by him, and an allowance was by his 
orders assigned, that enabled her to support the dignity of her 
rank. Having stated the manner in which the conquest of 
Manji was effected, we shall now speak of the different cities 
of that province, and first of Koi-gan-zu. 

1 Our author appears in this place to have crowded under one reign 
events that belong to two or more, which followed each other in rapid 
succession. The emperor Tu-tsong, whose unwarlike and depraved 
character was said to have been the occasion of the misfortunes that 
befel his country, died in 1274; when the minister by whose evil counsels 
he had been implicitly governed placed his second son, an infant, on the 
throne, and caused the empress, his mother, to be declared regent during 
the minority. This prince, who was named Koiig-tsong, afterwards fell 
into the hands of the Tartars; but the Chinese, who still adhered to the 
fortunes of the expiring dynasty, conferred the imperial title upon his 
elder brother, named Tuan-tsong; and to his fate it is that the passage 
in the text applies. 

2 Such we may suppose to have been the popular story, which our 
author repeats as he heard it, but which, probably, had no better founda 
tion than a Chinese equivoque upon the name of this great captain, to 
whose talents his master was indebted for the conquest of Southern 
China, and of whom it is said by the Chinese historians that " he con 
ducted a large army as if it had been a single man." 

8 The surrender of the capital took place in 1276, but it was not until 
the end of the year 1279 t^ at the conquest of China was completed by 
the issue of a great naval engagement. 

The Town of Pau-ghin 277 



KOI-GAN-ZU is a very handsome and wealthy city, lying in a 
direction between south-east and east, at the entrance of the 
province of Manji, where a prodigious number of vessels are 
continually passing, its situation (as we have already observed) 
being near the bank of the river Kara-moran. 1 Large con 
signments of merchandise are forwarded to this city, in order 
that the goods may be transported, by means of this river, to 
various other places. Salt is manufactured here in great 
quantities, not only for the consumption of the city itself, but 
for exportation to other parts; and from this salt the grand 
khan derives an ample revenue. 2 



UPON leaving Koi-gan-zu, you travel one day s journey towards 
the south-east, by a handsome stone causeway, leading into 
the province of Manji. On both sides of the causeway there 
are very extensive marshy lakes, the waters of which are deep, 
and may be navigated ; 3 nor is there besides this any other 
road by which the province can be entered. It is, however, 
accessible by means of shipping; and in this manner it was 
that the officer who commanded the grand khan s armies in 
vaded it, by effecting a landing with his whole force. 4 At the 

1 The city is about five miles distant from the Yellow River, with 
which it communicates by means of the grand canal. 

* " Proche de la," says P. Martini, " il y a des marais salans, ou il se 
fait du sel en abondance." Thevenot, iii. partie, p. 321. 

3 These causeways form the embankments of the canal, and separate 
it, on a higher level, from the waters of the lake. It would seem that in 
our author s time there was only a single embankment at this part, by 
means of which the waters of the lake, on that side which was fed by the 
rivulets, were kept up to an artificial level. Much of the country, Staun- 
ton observes, that was formerly under water, has been drained and 
brought into cultivation. 

4 From this it must be understood that the fleet of transports entered 
the canal, or the portion of the lake that served the purpose of a canal, 
and conveyed the troops to the neighbourhood of the city of Hoai-gnan, 
which stands on its bank in the midst of a swamp. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

end of the day s journey, you reach a considerable town named 
Pau-ghin. 1 The inhabitants worship idols, burn their dead, 
use paper money, and are the subjects of the grand khan. They 
gain their living by trade and manufacture: they have much 
silk, and weave gold tissues. The necessaries of life are there in 



AT the distance of a day s journey from Pau-ghin, towards 
the south-east, stands the large and well-built city of Kain. 2 
Its inhabitants are idolaters, use the paper money as their cur 
rency, and are the subjects of the grand khan. Trade and 
manufactures flourish amongst them. They have fish in 
abundance, and game also, both beasts and birds. Pheasants, 
in particular, are in such plenty, that for a bit of silver equal in 
value to a Venetian groat you may purchase three of these 
birds, of the size of pea-fowls. 



AT the end of a day s journey from the last-mentioned place, 
in the course of which many villages and much tilled land are 
met with, you reach a city named Tin-gui, not of any great size, 
but plentifully furnished with all the necessaries of life. The 
people are idolaters, the subjects of the grand khan, and use 
his paper money. They are merchants, and have many trad 
ing vessels. Both beasts and birds are here found in plenty. 
The situation of this city is towards the south-east, and on the 
left-hand that is, on the eastern side of it, at the distance of 
three days journey you find the sea. In the intermediate 

1 This is the Pau-in-cheu of Van Braam s journal, the Pao-yn-hien of 
Du Halde s map, and the Pao-yng-shien of Staunton s. 

2 However different the names may appear, this is evidently the town- 
of Kao-yu, on the banks of the lake and canal; and it is not improbable 
that Ka-in is a typographical mistake of Ka-iu, or Ka-yu, as in almost 
every name we have observed the final u to be changed for some other 
letter resembling it in form. 

The City of Yan-gui 279 

space there are many salt-works, where large quantities of 
salt are manufactured. 1 You next come to the large and well- 
built town of Chin-gui, from whence salt is exported sufficient 
for the supply of all the neighbouring provinces. 2 On this 
article the grand khan raises a revenue, the amount of which 
would scarcely be credited. Here also the inhabitants worship 
idols, use paper money, and are the subjects of his majesty. 




PROCEEDING in a south-easterly direction from Chin-gui, you 
come to the important city of Yan-gui, which, having twenty- 
four towns under its jurisdiction, must be considered as a 
place of great consequence. 3 It belongs to the dominion of 
the grand khan. The people are idolaters, and subsist by 
trade and manual arts. They manufacture arms and all sorts 
of warlike accoutrements; in consequence of which many 
troops are stationed in this part of the country. The city is 
the place of residence of one of the twelve nobles before 

1 Tingui, or Tingiu, appears to be the Tai-cheu of the maps, a city of 
the second order, dependent upon Yang-cheu-fu; but of which, as it 
lies out of the route of travellers, we have little information. The 
situation, however, with respect to the sea, and in the midst of salt 
works, serves to establish their identity. " II y a beaucoup de salines," 
observes Martini, " vers 1 orient de la ville (de Yang-cheu) ou le sel se 
fait de 1 eau de la mer." P. 129. 

2 This place, as a mart for exporting the salt to different provinces, we 
may presume to lie near the great river, and Tsing-kiang-hien presents 
itself as favourably circumstanced for that traffic. It must, however, 
be observed that Chin-gui, or Cin-gui, as distinct from Tin-gui, is not to 
be found in the Basle edition or Venice epitome. 

3 The points of the compass must here be greatly perverted; but 
whatever may be the situations assigned to the inconsiderable places 
just mentioned, no doubts can be entertained of Yan-gui, or Yan-giu, 
being the city of Yang-cheu-fu; although the jurisdiction of the latter 
comprehended, in the seventeenth century, according to Martini, only 
ten, instead of twenty- four towns. " C est une ville forte marchande," 
says Du Halde, " et il s y fait un grand commerce de toutes sortes d ouv- 
rages Chinois. . . Le reste du canal jusqu a Pe-king, ii a aucune ville 
qui lui soit comparable. . . Yang-tcheou a deux lieues de circuit, et Ton 
y compte, taut dans la ville, que dans les fauxbourgs, deux millions 
d ames." (Tom. i. p. 134.) Staunton speaks of it as a city of the first 
order, bearing the marks of great antiquity. " It still," he says, " had 
the appearance of carrying on a considerable trade ; and there were not 
fewer than a thousand vessels of different sizes lying at anchor close to 
it." P. 420. 

280 Travels of Marco Polo 

spoken of, who are appointed by his majesty to the govern 
ment of the provinces; l and in the room of one of these, 
Marco Polo, by special order of the grand khan, acted as 
governor of this city during the space of three years. 



NAN-GHIN is the name of a large and distinguished province 
of Manji, situated towards the west. 2 The people are 
idolaters, use paper money in currency, are subjects of the 
grand khan, and are largely engaged in commerce. They 
have raw silk, and weave tissues of silver and gold in great 
quantities, and of various patterns. The country produces 
abundance of corn, and is stored as well with domestic cattle 
as with beasts and birds that are the objects of the chase, and 
plenty of tigers. It supplies the sovereign with an ample 
revenue, and chiefly from the imposts levied upon the rich 
articles in which the merchants trade. We shall now speak 
of the noble city of Sa-yan-fu. 



SA-YAN-FU is a considerable city of the province of Manji, 
having under its jurisdiction twelve wealthy and large towns. 3 

1 From the account of the Civil Tribunal of Twelve, given in chap, 
xix. of this book, and note 2 , p. 206, it did not appear, as this passage 
implies, that the governors of the provinces, or viceroys, as they are 
termed (tsong-tu), were chosen from their own body. Such a selection 
may have taken place occasionally, without being the established prac 

2 By Nan-ghin (in the Basle edition Nauigui, and in the manuscripts 
as well as the epitome Naingui) must unquestionably be meant Nankin, 
formerly the name of the province to which the reigning dynasty has 
given that of Kiang-nan. 

3 Iii proceeding to the description of this remarkable city, our author 
departs from the forms of an itinerary, and makes no mention of its dis 
tance or its bearings from any of the places already noticed. Siang- 
yang is situated in the northern part of the province of Hu-kuang, adjoin 
ing to that of Kiang-nan, upon the river Han, which discharges itself 
into the Kiang. The number of towns under its jurisdiction at the time 
Martini wrote, was seven, exclusive of some fortresses. 

Siege of Sa-yan-fu 28 i 

It is a place of great commerce and extensive manufactures. 
The inhabitants burn the bodies of their dead, and are 
idolaters. 1 They are the subjects of the grand khan, and use 
his paper currency. Raw silk is there produced in great 
quantity, and the finest silks, intermixed with gold, are woven. 
Game of all kinds abounds. The place is amply furnished 
with everything that belongs to a great city, and by its un 
common strength it was enabled to stand a siege of three years ; 
refusing to surrender to the grand khan, even after he had ob 
tained possession of the province of Manji. 2 The difficulties 
experienced in the reduction of it were chiefly occasioned by 
the army s not being able to approach it, excepting on the 
northern side; the others being surrounded with water, 3 
by means of which the place continually received supplies, 
which it was not in the power of the besiegers to prevent. 
When the operations were reported to his majesty, he felt 
extremely hurt that this place alone should obstinately hold 
out, after all the rest of the country had been reduced to obedi 
ence. The circumstance having come to the knowledge of the 
brothers Nicolo and Maffeo, who were then resident at the 
imperial court, 4 they immediately presented themselves to 
the grand khan, and proposed to him that they should be 
allowed to construct machines, such as were made use of in 
the West, capable of throwing stones of three hundred pounds 
weight, by which the buildings of the city might be destroyed 
and the inhabitants killed. Their memorial was attended to 

1 We are naturally surprised at these repeated assertions, that, even 
in the central parts of the empire, the inhabitants were accustomed to 
burn the bodies of their dead. It appears, however, from the observa 
tions made by the gentlemen of the Dutch embassy, in passing through 
the province of Kiang-nan, that regular inhumation is not, even now, so 
general as had been supposed; and it may be fair to conjecture that, as 
many of the Chinese superstitions, and along with them the doctrine of 
the metempsychosis, were borrowed from their Indian neighbours, the 
rites of the funeral pile may formerly have been still more prevalent. 

* According to those who have written on the authority of the Chinese 
annals, Siang-yang was invested in 1269, and taken in 1273; whereas 
Hang cheu, the capital of the Song, was not summoned until 1276. Our 
author, therefore, instead of saying that the whole of Manji had been 
conquered during the continuance of the siege, should have confined his 
assertion to a considerable part. 

8 The operations were directed, in the first instance, against Fan- 
ching, on the northern side of the Han, opposite to, and a kind of suburb 
of, Siang-yang, which appears from the plan in Du Halde to be in part 
encompassed by a bend of that river. 

4 In the Basle edition the author ascribes to himself a share of the 
merit; the words being: Illo enim tempore ego et pater meus atque 
patruus fuimus in imperatoris aula; and in the Italian epitome: 
Certamente la fo presa per industria de miser Nicolo e Mafio e Marco." 

282 Travels of Marco Polo 

by the grand khan, who, warmly approving of the scheme, 
gave orders that the ablest smiths and carpenters should be 
placed under their direction; amongst whom were some Nes- 
torian Christians, who proved to be most able mechanics. 1 In 
a few days they completed their mangonels, according to the 
instructions furnished by the two brothers; and a trial being 
made of them in the presence of the grand khan, and of his 
whole court, an opportunity was afforded of seeing them cast 
stones, each of which weighed three hundred pounds. They 
were then put on board of vessels, and conveyed to the army. 
When set up in front of the city of Sa-yan-fu, the first stone 
projected by one of them fell with such weight and violence 
upon a building, that a great part of it was crushed, and fell 
to the ground. So terrified were the inhabitants by this 
mischief, which to them seemed to be the effect of a thunder 
bolt from heaven, 2 that they immediately deliberated upon 
the expediency of surrendering. Persons authorized to treat 
were accordingly sent from the place, and their submission 
was accepted on the same terms and conditions as had been 
granted to the rest of the province. This prompt result of 
their ingenuity increased the reputation and credit of these 
two Venetian brothers in the opinion of the grand khan and of 
all his courtiers. 3 

1 These people we might understand from the text of Ramusio to be 
Asiatic Christians, and possibly Ighurs or Rumis, who were then ac 
counted the most ingenious and best instructed people employed at 
the courts or in the armies of the Tartar and other Eastern princes. 
In the Basle edition, on the contrary, they are spoken of as " fabros 
lignarios Christianos quos nobiscum habuimus; " and in the epitome, 
as " maestri Venetian! che era (erano) in quelle parte." 

a Frequent notice is taken in the Chinese annals of the fall of meteoric 
stones. See. Voy a Peking par De Guignes, torn. i. pp. 195 250. 

3 It must not here be passed unnoticed, that the consistency of our 
author is put to a severe test by the date commonly assigned to the 
reduction of Siang-yang, which, if it actually took place at the close 
of the year 1273, allows no more than two years for the journey of 
the Polo family from Acre, in Palestine, which they certainly left about 
the end of 1271 (as shown in note l , p. 19), until their arrival at Pekin; 
whilst in Ramusio s text, although not in the Basle edition, it is said to 
have occupied three years and a half. It becomes necessary therefore 
to adopt the opinion, either that the time they were on the road did 
not in fact exceed the first-mentioned period, or that the siege was not 
terminated so early as P. Gaubil and P. Mailla have stated; to which 
latter supposition some degree of probability is given by the repeated 
assertion of our author that this was amongst the last places of Manji 
that held out against the Tartars. 

The Great River Kiang 283 




LEAVING the city of Sa-yan-fu, and proceeding fifteen days 
journey towards the south-east, you reach the city of Sin-gui, 
which, although not large, is a place of great commerce. 1 
The number of vessels that belong to it is prodigious, in con 
sequence of its being situated near the Kiang, which is the 
largest river in the world, its width being in some places ten, 
in others eight, and in others six miles. 2 Its length, to the 
place where it discharges itself into the sea, is upwards of one 
hundred days journey. 3 It is indebted for its great size to 
the vast number of other navigable rivers that empty their 
waters into it, which have their sources in distant countries. 
A great number of cities and large towns are situated upon 
its banks, and more than two hundred, with sixteen 
provinces, 4 partake of the advantages of its navigation, 
by which the transport of merchandise is to an extent 
that might appear incredible to those who have not 
had an opportunity of witnessing it. When we consider, 
indeed, the length of its course, and the multitude of rivers 

1 pur author had stepped out of what might be regarded as the line 
of his route to speak of a place so remarkable as Siang-yang, and here 
again, by a large stride, returns to the eastern provinces. There is no 
town that appears to answer so well to the description he has given of 
Sin-gui, as that of Kiu-kiang, at the northern extremity of the province 
of Kiang-si, and which, as we are informed by Martini, was named Tin- 
kiang under the dynasty of the Song. 

8 At the place where the Kiang is crossed by the line of the canal the 
width is stated by Sir G. Staunton at about two English miles, and by M. 
De Guignes at a French league; but nearer to the sea it is, of course, 
much greater. As our author should, however, be supposed to speak of 
its width near the city he is describing, we ought perhaps to understand 
not Italian but Chinese miles, or li, which are to the former in the pro 
portion of three to eight, and consequently his estimation would agree 
with that of the modern travellers. It is to the city of Kiu-kiang that 
the tides of the sea, at the full and change, are perceived to extend; and 
here, on this account, it is said to change its appellation of Ta-kiang, or 
the great river, for that of Yang-tse-kiang, or the son of the sea. 

a The length of its course is computed by Barrow at two thousand 
two hundred miles, which would give an average of twenty-two miles 
for each day s passage, or perhaps thirty, when the unavoidable stop 
pages in so long a tract are considered. By a day s journey must not 
in general be understood what a person could travel in a given number 
of hours, but the interval between two accustomed resting places. 

The division of the provinces was not the same at that period as it 
exists at present; the whole number being now fifteen, exclusively of 
the island of Hai-nan. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

that communicate with it (as has been observed), it is not sur 
prising that the quantity and value of articles for the supply of 
so many places, lying in all directions, should be incalculable. 
The principal commodity, however, is salt, which is not only 
conveyed by means of the Kiang, and the rivers connected with 
it, to the towns upon their banks, b^it afterwards from thence to 
all places in the interior of the country. 1 On one occasion, 
when Marco Polo was at the city of Sin-gui, he saw there not 
fewer than fifteen thousand vessels; and yet there are other 
towns along the river where the number is still more consider 
able. 2 All these vessels are covered with a kind of deck, and 
have a mast with one sail. 3 Their burthen is in general about 
four thousand cantari, or quintals, of Venice, and from that 
upwards to twelve thousand cantari, which some of them are 
capable of loading. 4 They do not employ hempen cordage, 
excepting for the masts and sails (standing and running 
rigging). They have canes of the length of fifteen paces, 
such as have been already described, which they split, in their 
whole length, into very thin pieces, and these, by twisting them 
together, they form into ropes three hundred paces long. 5 So 
skilfully are they manufactured, that they are equal in strength 
to cordage made of hemp. With these ropes the vessels are 
tracked along the rivers, by means of ten or twelve horses to 

1 Salt appears to be principally manufactured in that part of Kiang- 
uan which lies between the sea, on the east, the Kao-yeu lake on the 
west, and the Kiang on the south. Being shipped on the latter, it is 
conveyed to the most distant parts of China, but a considerable portion 
goes to the metropolis. 

* The city of Kiu-kiang, which answers best to the circumstances 
related of Sin-gui, is thus spoken of by P. Martini: " Kiu-kiang est une 
grande ville et fort marchande sur le bord meridional de la riviere de 
Kiang ou elle se joint avec le grand lac de Poyang: on auroit de la peine 
a croire le grand nombre de vaisseaux qu il y a, a moins que de 1 avoir 
vue; car ils viennent de tous les endroits les plus eloignes de la Chine 
dans cette riviere, qui est comme leur rendez-vous, ou ils s assemblent 
pour se mettre en mer." P. in. 

3 Representations of these vessels may be seen in the plates accom 
panying the accounts of all the Embassies to China. 

4 The cantaro is commonly translated by quintal or hundredweight, 
which would make the burthen of these vessels two hundred, and up to 
six hundred tons: but the cantaro of some parts of Italy is smaller than 
that of others. 

5 Persons who have seen the cables belonging to praws of the Eastern 
Islands might suppose that this account of twisting the bamboo into 
cordage, was a mistake for the manufacture of cables by twisting or 
platting the rattan, so commonly applied to that purpose; but our 
author s correctness as to the material is fully proved by the testimony 
of modern travellers. " Even the ropes," says Mr. Ellis, by which 
the buckets were attached to the wheel, were of bamboo." Journal, 
etc. p. 383. y 

The City of Kayn-gui 285 

each/ as well upwards, against the current, as in the opposite 
direction. At many places near the banks of this river there 
are hills and small rocky eminences, upon which are erected idol 
temples and other edifices, and you find a continual succession 
of villages and inhabited places. 



KAYN-GUI is a small town on the southern bank of the before- 
mentioned river, 2 where annually is collected a very large 
quantity of corn and rice, the greatest part of which is conveyed 
from thence to the city of Kanbalu, for the supply of the estab 
lishment of the grand khan ; 3 for through this place is the line 
of communication with the province of Cathay, by means of 
rivers, lakes, and a wide and deep canal which the grand khan 
has caused to be dug, in order that vessels may pass from one 
great river to the other, and from the province of Manji, by 
water, as far as Kanbalu, without making any part of the 
voyage by sea. 4 This magnificent work is deserving of ad 
miration; and not so much from the manner in which it is con 
ducted through the country, or its vast extent, as from its 
utility and the benefit it produces to those cities which lie in 
its course. On its banks, likewise, are constructed strong and 
wide terraces, or chaussees, upon which the travelling by land 
also is rendered perfectly convenient. In the midst of the 

1 At the present day it would seem that vessels of every description 
are tracked by men only, and not by horses, which, as well as other 
cattle, are to a certain degree scarce in China; but there is reason to 
believe that under the Mungal princes, great numbers were brought 
from Tartary, and much encouragement given to breeding them. It 
may be observed at the same time that very little is known of the inland 
navigation of the country, excepting what is immediately connected 
with the grand canal. 

2 There is reason to conclude that by Kayn-gui must be meant a town 
situated at the entrance of the canal, on the southern side of the Kiang, 
named by P. Magalhanes Chin-kiang-keu, signifying the mouth or port 
of Chin-kiang (the Tsin-kiang of De Guignes), a city standing on the 
same canal, and which is the subject of the succeeding chapter. 

3 The journals of Van Braam and of De Guignes make frequent men 
tion of the interruption their yachts experienced from the vast number 
of vessels laden with rice for Pekin, that were collected at this part of 
the canal. 

* In every account of China the description of this grand canal forms 
a prominent feature : * an inland navigation of such extent and magni 
tude," says Barrow. " as to stand unrivalled in the history of the world." 
Its completion, as it now exists, is said to have been effected in the reign 
of Yong-lo, third emperor of the Ming, about the year 1409. 

286 Travels of Marco Polo 

river, opposite to the city of Kayn-gui, there is an island en 
tirely of rock, upon which are built a grand temple and monas 
tery, where two hundred monks, as they may be termed, reside, 
and perform service to the idols ; and this is the supreme head 
of many other temples and monasteries. 1 We shall now speak 
of the city of Chan-ghian-fu. 



CHAN-GHIAN-FU is a city of the province of Manji, 2 the inhabi 
tants of which are idolaters, subjects of the grand khan, and 
use his paper money. They gain their living by trade and 
manufacture, and are wealthy. They weave tissues of silk 
and gold. The field sports are there most excellent in every 
species of game, and provisions are abundant. There are in 
this city three churches of Nestorian Christians, which were 
built in the year 1278, when his majesty appointed a Nestorian, 
named Mar-Sachis, to the government of it for three years. 
By him these churches were established, where there had not 
been any before; and they still subsist. 3 Leaving this place, 
we shall now speak of Tin-gui-gui. 

1 Our author s notice of this island, so peculiarly circumstanced, at the 
same time that it presents an unquestionable proof of the genuineness of 
his observations, serves to mark with certainty the place at which he 
crossed the Kiang. In crossing the river," says Staunton, " the atten 
tion was particularly attracted by an island situated in the middle, called 
Chin-shan, or the golden mountain, which rose almost perpendicularly 
out of the river. ... It belonged to the emperor, who had built upon it 
a large and handsome palace, and on the highest eminence several temples 
and pagodas. The island also contained a large monastery of priests, 
by whom it is chiefly inhabited." Vol. ii. p. 424. 

2 " Ceux qui liront les escrits de Marco Polo de Venise," says P. Martini, 
" verront clairement par la situation de cette ville et le nom qu elle a 
(Chin-kiang-fu) que c est celle qu il nomme Cingiam (Chin-gian). Elle 
est bastie sur le bord de la riviere de Kiang, et a 1 orient d un canal fait 

mesme." It is evident that this fauxbourg is the town that has been 
described under the corrupted name of Kayn-gui, and what has been 
said of the resort of shipping might have been reserved for this place. 

3 The existence of these churches, of which no reasonable doubt can 
be entertained, is a curious fact in the history of the progress made by 
the Christian religion in the eastern or remoter parts of China. The 
name of the individual is, in the Basle edition, Mar- Sards, and in the 
Berlin manuscript, Mar-Iarchis. The title or appellation of Mar, equiva 
lent, in Syriac, to Douiinus in Latin, is well known to have been commonly 

The City of Tin-gui-gui 287 



DEPARTING from Chan-ghian-fu, and travelling four days 
towards the south-east, you pass many towns and fortified 
places, the inhabitants of which are idolaters, live by arts 
and commerce, are the subjects of the grand khan, and use 
his paper money. At the end of these four days, you reach 
the city of Tin-gui-gui, which is large and handsome, 1 and 
produces much raw silk, of which tissues of various qualities 
and patterns are woven. The necessaries of life are here in 
plenty, and the variety of game affords excellent sport. The 
inhabitants were a vile, inhuman race. At the time that 
Chinsan Ba-yan, or the hundred-eyed, subdued the country 
of Manji, he despatched certain Alanian Christians, 2 along 
with a party of his own people, to possess themselves of this 
city; who, as soon as they appeared before it, were suffered 
to enter without resistance. The place being surrounded by 
a double wall, one of them within the other, the Alanians 
occupied the first enclosure, where they found a large quantity 
of wine, and having previously suffered much from fatigue 
and privation, they were eager to quench their thirst, and, 
without any consideration, proceeded to drink to such excess, 
that, becoming intoxicated, they fell asleep. The people of 
the city, who were within the second enclosure, as soon as they 
perceived that their enemies lay slumbering on the ground, 
took the opportunity of murdering them, not suffering one to 
escape. When Chinsan Ba-yan learned the fate of his detach 
ment, his indignation and anger were raised to the highest 

affixed to the names of Nestorian bishops, as well as of other persons of 
rank, and as that of Mar-Sergius often occurs in the annals of their 
church, it seems likely to have been the name of which Sachis and Sards 
are corruptions. 

1 The distance of four days journey, in the line of the canal, from the 
last-mentioned place, shows that this city, which in the early Venice epi 
tome is named Tin-gin-gui, and in the Berlin manuscript Chin-chin-gui, 
must be the Tchang-tcheou-fou of Du Halde s map, or Chang-cheu-fu 
according to our orthography: " ville celebre et d un grand commerce 
qui est situee proche du canal." 

2 Without entering upon the ancient and obscure history of the Alani 
or Alanians of Scythia or Turkistan, it will be sufficient to observe that 
after their defeat and dispersion by the Huns, a considerable portion of 
them settled on the northern slope of the range of Caucasus, on the 
western side of the Caspian, and, if not actually the same people, are 
now confounded with the Abkhas and Cherkess or Circassians. 

Travels of Marco Polo 

pitch, and he sent another army to attack the place. When 
it was carried, he gave orders for putting to the sword all the 
inhabitants, great and small, without distinction of sex, as an 
act of retaliation. 



SIN-GUI is a large and magnificent city, the circumference of 
which is twenty miles. 1 The inhabitants are idolaters, sub 
jects of the grand khan, and use his paper money. They have 
vast quantities of raw silk, and manufacture it, not only for 
their own consumption, all of them being clothed in dresses* 
of silk, but also for other markets. There are amongsj; them 
some very rich merchants, and the number of inhabitants is so 
great as to be a subject of astonishment. They are, however, a 
pusillanimous race, and solely occupied with their trade and 
manufactures. In these indeed they display considerable 
ability, and if they were as enterprising, manly, and warlike, 
as they are ingenious, so prodigious is their number, that they 
might not only subdue the whole of the province (Manji), but 
might carry their views still further. They have amongst 
them many physicians of eminent skill, who can ascertain the 
nature of the disorder, and know how to apply the proper 
remedies. 2 There are also persons distinguished as professors 
of learning, or, as we should term them, philosophers, and 

1 By Sin-gui is to be understood the eminent city of Su-cheu, situated 
in the line of the canal, and much celebrated by travellers, who compare 
it in some respects, to Venice. " The streets of the city of Sou-choo- 
foo," says Staunton, " through the suburbs of which the yachts now 
passed, were divided, like Venice, by branches from the principal canal. 
Over each of those branches was erected an elegant stone bridge. The 
fleet of the embassy was nearly three hours in passing the suburbs of 
Sou-choo-fop, before they arrived at the city walls." (Vol. ii. p. 427.) 
" Les murailles de la ville de Sucheu," says Martini, " ont quarante 
stades Chinoises de circuit; mais si vous y comprenez les fauxbourgs, 
vous en trouverez sans doute plus de cent." (P. 124.) Forty Chinese 
// are equal to fifteen Italian miles. 

2 Su-cheu-fu being a place of great wealth and luxury, it is natural 
that the medical art should there be liberally encouraged, and its prac 
titioners skilful. By some writers the Chinese physicians are said to 
" have made a proficiency that would astonish the ablest of ours in 
Europe; " whilst others consider their elaborate process of feeling the 
pulse, and their pretensions of being from thence enabled to ascertain 
the seat of the disorder, as nothing better than solemn mummery. See 
General Description of China, by the Abbe Grosier, vol. ii. p. 480; and 
Barrow s Travels in China, p. 343. 

The City of Sin-gui 289 

others who may be called magicians or enchanters. 1 On the 
mountains near the city, rhubarb grows in the highest per 
fection, and is from thence distributed throughout the pro 
vince. 2 Ginger is likewise produced in large quantities, and 
is sold at so cheap a rate, that forty pounds weight of the 
fresh root may be had for the value, in their money, of a Vene 
tian silver groat. Under the jurisdiction of Sin-gui there are 
sixteen respectable and wealthy cities and towns, where trade 
and arts flourish. By the name of Sin-gui is to be understood 
" the city of the earth," as by that of Kin-sai, " the city of 
heaven. " 3 Leaving Sin-gui, we shall now speak of another 

1 By philosophers and magicians, he evidently alludes to the disciples 
of Confucius (commonly termed literati), and to those of Lao-kiun, or 
the sect of the tao-tse ; as in other places, by the appellation of idolaters, 
he means the worshippers of Fo, or Buddha, who constitute the most 
numerous class. The first of these study the moral and metaphysical 
works of their great master, and take regular degrees in philosophy, 
which qualify them, according to their attainments, for holding the 
several offices of government, and becoming what Europeans term 
" mandarins of letters." The tao-tse, or " sons of immortality," as they 
style themselves, hold doctrines which some writers describe as resem 
bling those of the Hindu yogis or quietists (from whom they seem, in 
fact, to be derived) ; whilst others, judging from their worldly habits, 
attribute to them those of the Epicurean school; but whatever their 
dogmas may be, they devote themselves to the practice of magic, and 
delude their followers by the visions and reveries of the illuminati. 

2 " Le tai-hoam (more correctly, according to De Guignes, ta-hoang, 
grand jaune) ou la rhubarbe," says P. Perennin, " croit en plusieurs 
endroits de la Chine. La meilleure est celle de Sse-tchouen; celle qui 
vient dans la province de Xensi et dans le royaume de Thibet, lui est 
fort inferieure." (Lett. edif. torn. xix. p. 307.) The mountains of the 
province of Kiang-nan, being in the same latitude as the former, may 
likewise produce a good kind, although not noticed by our modern tra 
vellers, who in general have had little opportunity of making botanical 
researches beyond the borders of the canals and high roads. It is evi 
dent that a mistake has here been made, probably in the arrangement 
of our author s original notes. What is said of the growth of rhubarb 
in the neighbourhood of this Sin-gui or Su-cheu, in the eastern province 
of Kiang-nan, was undoubtedly meant to apply to another Singui, or 
Si-ning, a well-known place of trade in the western province of Shen-si, 
and on the road to Tibet. The commerce in that article particularly 
belongs to the latter place, and the Russians, as Pallas informs us, make 
their contracts for it with Bucharian merchants settled there. It is not 
only in itself improbable that two places of the same name, in opposite 
extremes of China, should boast of this production, but the fact of 
its being found in any one of the eastern provinces is entirely un 
supported. With respect to ginger, the quantity that might be pur 
chased for a Venetian groat is said in the Italian epitome to be five only, 
not forty pounds weight. [The best texts agree in reading forty.] 

1 Although pur author may be mistaken in his etymology and in his 
distinctive epithets of celestial and terrestrial paradise, it is plain that 
his observation refers to a well-known Chinese saying, that, " what the 
heavens are, above, Su-cheu and Hang-cheu are upon earth." P. Mar 
tini gives the proverb in the original words. Thevenot, iii. partie 
p. 124. 

290 Travels of Marco Polo 

city, distant from it only a day s journey, named Va-giu, 
where, likewise, there is a vast abundance of raw silk, and 
where there are many merchants as well as artificers. Silks 
of the finest quality are woven here, and are afterwards carried 
to every part of the province. 1 No other circumstances pre 
senting themselves as worthy of remark, we shall now proceed 
to the description of the principal city and metropolis of the 
province of Manji, named Kin-sai. 



i. UPON leaving Va-giu you pass, in the course of three days 
journey, many towns, castles, and villages, all of them well 
inhabited and opulent. The people are idolaters, and the 
subjects of the grand khan, and they use paper money and 
have abundance of provisions. At the end of three days you 
reach the noble and magnificent city of Kin-sai, a name that 
signifies " the celestial city," and which it merits from its pre 
eminence to all others in the world, in point of grandeur and 
beauty, as well as from its abundant delights, which might 
lead an inhabitant to imagine himself in paradise. 2 This city 
was frequently visited by Marco Polo, 3 who carefully and 
diligently observed and inquired into every circumstance 
respecting it, all of which he entered in his notes, from whence 
the following particulars are briefly stated. According to 

1 The city of Va-gie, of which no mention is made in the other ver 
sions, must be either Ho-cheu, situated on the side of Lake Tai, opposite 
to that on which Su-cheu stands, or else (and more probably) the city 
called Kia-hing in modern times, and formerly Siu-cheu, which is in the 
direct line of the canal, and midway between Su-cheu and Hang-cheu. 
Both of them are celebrated for the richness of their commerce, particu- 

arly in silk, both raw and manufactured. 

2 At the time when this city, the capital of Southern China under the 
dynasty of the Song, was surrendered to the arms of Kublai, the Chinese 
annals call it by the name of Lin-gnan. This was changed by the Ming 
for that of Hang-cheu, which it had borne at an earlier period, and which 
it still retains. Quinsai, Kin-sai, or, according to De Guignes, Kin-tsay, 
must therefore be considered only as a descriptive appellation, grounded, 
perhaps, upon the proverbial saying already noticed, which terms it a 
celestial abode, although the meaning of the component words may not 
be precisely that which our author has assigned to them. 

3 The city of Yang-cheu-fu, of which he was the provisional governor 
for three years, being distant only about a week s journey, by the canal, 
from Hang-cheu-fu, he had consequently the opportunity of occasional 
intercourse with that capital. 

The City of Kin-sai 291 

common estimation, this city is an hundred miles in circuit. 1 
Its streets and canals are extensive, and there are squares, or 
market-places, which, being necessarily proportioned in size 
to the prodigious concourse of people by whom they are fre 
quented, are exceedingly spacious. It is situated between a 
lake of fresh and very clear water on the one side, 2 and a river 
of great magnitude on the other, the waters of which, by a 
number of canals, large and small, are made to run through 
every quarter of the city, carrying with them all the filth into 
the lake, and ultimately to the sea. 3 This, whilst it contributes 
much to the purity of the air, furnishes a communication by 
water, in addition to that by land, to all parts of the town; 
the canals and the streets being of sufficient width to allow of 
boats on the one, and carriages in the other, conveniently 

1 These dimensions, taken in their literal sense, must be regarded as 
extravagant, even although they should be understood to include the 
suburbs; but there has already been frequent occasion to remark, that 
when, in describing the size of places, our author speaks of miles, he 
must be supposed to mean Chinese miles, or li, which are to the Italian 
in the proportion of three to eight. Even such an extent might seem 
excessive, were it not that the walls even of the modern city are esti 
mated by travellers at sixty li, and that, if in the course of five centuries 
they have undergone alterations, it is to be presumed their limits may 
have been considerably contracted. It is rarely indeed that strangers 
can have the opportunity of measuring the works of fortified places: 
they must derive their information from the natives, who, from ignorance 
or vanity, are likely to deceive them. 

2 The lake here spoken of is the Si-hu, or " western lake," so called 
from it* being situated on the western side of the city. Although 
inconsiderable in point of extent, it is highly celebrated by all travellers 
on account of the beauty of its surrounding scenery, and the peculiar 
transparency of its waters. The lake," says Staunton, " formed 
a beautiful sheet of water, about three or four miles in diameter, and 
surrounded to the north, east, and south by an amphitheatre of pic 
turesque mountains. ... It was in most places shallow, the water per 
fectly pellucid, and the bottom gravelly." (P. 444.) " The water," 
says Barrow, who made an excursion on it, " was as clear as crystal." 
P. 524- 

3 The river upon which this ancient capital of southern China stands 
is the Tsien-tang-kiang. ; The tide," says Staunton, " increases the 
width of this river to about four miles opposite the city. At low water 
there is a fine level strand near two miles broad, which extends towards 
the sea as far as the eye can reach." (P. 438.) According to the words 
of our author there appears to have been, in his time, a passage of water 
from the river, through the numerous canals of the city, into the lake. 
This would take place at the flood tide; and at the ebb, through the same 
channels, there would be a reflux from the lake into the river, necessary 
for the purpose of cleansing them. But in the modern accounts of Hang- 
cheu-fu no mention is made of any such communication between the 
river and the city or the lake, and to account for the disagreement we 
might be led to conclude that from the receding of the sea, or other 
natural causes, a change of circumstances may have been produced in 
so long a course of time. 

292 Travels of Marco Polo 

passing, with articles necessary for the consumption of the 
inhabitants. 1 It is commonly said that the number of bridges, 
of all sizes, amounts to twelve thousand. 2 Those which are 
thrown over the principal canals and are connected with the 
main streets, have arches so high, and built with so much skill, 
that vessels with their masts can pass under them, 3 whilst, at 
the same time, carts and horses are passing over their heads, 
so well is the slope from the street adapted to the height of the 
arch. If they were not in fact so numerous, there would be no 
convenience of crossing from one place to another. 

2. Beyond the city, and enclosing it on that side, there is 
a fosse about forty miles in length, very wide, and full of water 
that comes from the river before mentioned. This was ex 
cavated by the ancient kings of the province, in order that 
when the river should overflow its banks, the superfluous 
water might be diverted into this channel ; and to serve at the 
same time as a measure of defence. 4 The earth dug out from 

1 All the modern accounts of this city concur in describing its numerous 
canals, but they likewise insist upon the narrowness of its paved streets. 
Our author, it is true, in a subsequent part of his description, speaks of 
the principal street as being forty paces in width (about equal to that of 
Pekin); but it must be considered that at the period when he wrote, 
Hang-cheu still retained the magnificence of a great capital and imperial 
residence, and that in a country repeatedly ravaged by foreign and 
domestic conquerors, it cannot be supposed to have escaped repeated 
destruction, nor, when renewed, to have assumed, in the new arrange 
ment of its streets, any other character than that of a provincial city, 
although of the first class. 

2 Amongst the exaggerations imputed to our author, in his account of 
China, none has been more commonly pointed out by those who take a 
part against him, than this assertion, that a city, whatever its extent 
and magnificence might be, should have contained twelve thousand 
bridges. It cannot be denied that the truth is here outstepped; but it 
must be recollected that he does not state the fact upon the authority of 
any enumeration of his own, but merely as the popular story (e fama is 
the expression) related by the inhabitants of the place, whose vanity, 
in this and other instances, led them to impose upon admiring credulity. 

3 " Outre ces digues," says P. Le Comte, speaking of the grand canal, 
" on a basti une infinite de ponts pour la communication des terres: 
ils sont de trois, de cinq, et de sept arches; celle du milieu est extra- 
ordinairement haute, afin que les barques en passant, ne soient pas 
obligees d abaisser leurs masts." (Nouv. Mem. de la Chine, torn. i. p. 
161.) " De tous les environs," says Du Halde, in his description of a 
neighbouring city, " on peut venir, entrer, et aller dans toute la ville en 
bateau. II n y a point de rue ou il n y ait un canal; c est pourquoi il y 
a quantite de ponts qui sont fort eleves, et presque tous d une seule 
arche." (Tom. i. p. 179.) But most directly to our purpose is Barrow s 
observation, that " over this main trunk and most of the other canals 
and rivers, are a great variety of bridges. . . . Some have the piers of 
such an extraordinary height, that the largest vessels, of two hundred 
tons, sail under them without striking their masts." P. 337. 

4 The existence of this fosse, commencing at the lake, and terminating 
at the river, may be traced in Du H aide s plan of the city. Its length 

The City of Kin-sai 293 

thence was thrown to the inner side, and has the appearance of 
many hillocks surrounding the place. There are within the 
city ten principal squares or market-places, besides innumer 
able shops along the streets. Each side of these squares is half 
a mile in length, 1 and in front of them is the main street, forty 
paces in width, and running in a direct line from one ex 
tremity of the city to the other. It is crossed by many low 
and convenient bridges. These market-squares (two miles 
in their whole dimension) are at the distance of four miles from 
each other. In a direction parallel to that of the main street, 
but on the opposite side of the squares, runs a very large canal, 
on the nearer bank of which capacious warehouses are built of 
stone, for the accommodation of the merchants who arrive 
from India and other parts, together with their goods and 
effects, in order that they may be conveniently situated with 
respect to the market-places. 2 In each of these, upon three 
days in every week, there is an assemblage of from forty to fifty 
thousand persons, who attend the markets and supply them 
with every article of provision that can be desired. There is 
an abundant quantity of game of all kinds, such as roebucks, 
stags, fallow deer, hares, and rabbits, together with partridges, 
pheasants, francolins, quails, common fowls, capons, and such 
numbers of ducks and geese as can scarcely be expressed; for 
so easily are they bred and reared on the lake, that, for the 
value of a Venetian silver groat, you may purchase a couple of 
geese and two couple of ducks. 3 There, also, are the shambles, 

there appears to exceed the proportion here assigned of four- tenths of 
the whole extent of the walls, but all the plans in that collection are 
without scale, and seem to have been drawn by Chinese artists, from 
memory rather than from actual survey. With regard to the object of 
this excavation, it may rather be thought intended to carry off the over 
flowings of the lake, than to receive those of the river, and Staunton 
accordingly speaks of the stream that flows through it at ordinary times, 
as being supplied from the former. 

1 The interior of this and of every other Chinese city must have under 
gone an entire change since the days of our author, and the bazars or 
market-places here mentioned are unnoticed by modern travellers. 
According to the length of the Chinese li, as established by the most 
accurate writers, at 296 French toises, each side of these squares would 
be about. 320 English yards, and their distance from each other about 

The regulations of the Chinese government with regard to foreign 
commerce appear to have been nearly the same, at a remote period, as 
those to which the European concerns at the port of Canton are sub 
jected at the present day. 

3 Perhaps instead of the conjunction copulative " and," we should 
here read the disjunctive " or," and consider two of the smaller of these 
aquatic birds as an equivalent for one of the larger. 

294 Travels of Marco Polo 

where they slaughter cattle for food, such as oxen, calves, kids, 
and lambs, to furnish the t ibles of rich persons and of the great 
magistrates. As to people of the lower classes, they do not 
scruple to eat every other kind of flesh, however unclean, 
without any discrimination. 1 At all seasons there is in the 
markets a great variety of herbs and fruits, and especially 
pears of an extraordinary size, weighing ten pounds each, that 
are white in the inside, like paste, and have a very fragrant 
smell. 2 There are peaches also, in their season, both of the 
yellow and the white kind, 3 and of a delicious flavour. Grapes 
are not produced there, but are brought in a dried state, and 
very good, from other parts. This applies also to wine, which 
the natives do not hold in estimation, being accustomed to 
their own liquor prepared from rice and spices. From the sea, 
which is fifteen miles distant, there is daily brought up the 
river, to the city, a vast quantity of fish; and in the lake also 
there is abundance, which gives employment at all times to 
persons whose sole occupation it is to catch them. The sorts 

1 Staunton observes, that " of the larger kind (of quadrupeds) the 
common people have little opportunity of ever tasting, unless of such 
as die by accident or disease. In such cases the appetite of a Chinese 
surmounts all scruple; whether it be an ox or camel, a sheep or ass, it is 
equally acceptable. This people know no distinction of clean and un 
clean meat. . . . Quadrupeds that can find some resources for subsistence 
about dwelling-houses, such as hogs and dogs, are the most common 
animal food, and are sold at the public markets." (P. 399.) The 
Arabian travellers of the ninth century notice in like manner the indis 
criminate style of feeding to which the Chinese were addicted in their 

2 Pears of the weight of ten pounds are, it must be confessed, an extra 
ordinary production of nature, and must have been of a kind still un 
known in Europe, where, I believe, the largest are not found to exceed 
two pounds; nor have I been able to ascertain the weight of any pear 
grown in England, exceeding twenty-six ounces. It is well known, 
indeed, that the varieties of the pyrus, as well as of other fruits, not only 
degenerate in size and quality, but in a long course of years actually 
become extinct. But the credibility of our author s assertion does not 
rest for support upon the mere presumption of what might have been 
the state of Chinese horticulture in the thirteenth century; for we learn 
from the accounts of modern travellers that pears of uncommon magni 
tude are still produced in the eastern provinces of China. Mr. Henry 
Browne, who for many years filled the situation of Chief of the Company s 
factory at Canton, assured Mr. Marsden that he had seen pears, supposed 
to have been produced in the province of Fo-kien, the bulk of which 
equalled that of a moderate sized wine decanter. What is said of their 
inner substance resembling paste, is meant to describe that quality 
which Van Braam terms fondante or melting, and which De Guignes, 
speaking of the same fruit, expresses by beurree. The latter pronounces 
them to be " fort grosses et excellentes." -Tom. iii. p. 355. 

8 By peaches of the yellow kind it may be conjectured that our author 
means apricots, which, as well as peaches, are the produce of that part 
of China. No mention is made of oranges. 

Produce and Manufactures of Kin-sai 295 

are various according to the season of the year, and, in conse 
quence of the offal carried thither from the town, they become 
large and rich. At the sight of such an importation of fish, 
you would think it impossible that it could be sold; and yet, 
in the course of a few hours, it is all taken off, so great is the 
number of inhabitants, even of those classes which can afford 
to indulge in such luxuries, for fish and flesh are eaten at the 
same meal. Each of the ten market-squares is surrounded 
with high dwelling-houses, 1 in the lower part of which are 
shops, where every kind of manufacture is carried on, and 
every article of trade is sold; such, amongst others, as spices, 
drugs, trinkets, and pearls. In certain shops nothing is 
vended but the wine of the country, which they are continu 
ally brewing, and serve out fresh to their customers at a 
moderate price. The streets connected with the market- 
squares are numerous, and in some of them are many cold 
baths, attended by servants of both sexes, to perform the 
offices of ablution for the men and women who frequent them, 
and who from their childhood have been accustomed at all 
times to wash in cold water, which they reckon highly con 
ducive to health. At these bathing places, however, they 
have apartments provided with warm water, for the use of 
strangers, who, from not being habituated to it, cannot bear 
the shock of the cold. All are in the daily practice of washing 
their persons, and especially before their meals. 

3. In other streets are the habitations of the courtesans, 
who are here in such numbers as I dare not venture to report : 
and not only near the squares, which is the situation usually 
appropriated for their residence, but in every part of the city 
they are to be found, adorned with much finery, highly per 
fumed, occupying well-furnished houses, and attended by 
many female domestics. 2 These women are accomplished, 

1 The generality of Chinese houses having only one floor, those which 
are raised to a second story may, comparatively, be termed case alte. 

z At Kanbalu, or Pekin, it was the custom in our author s time, as it 
is at the present day, to restrict the residence of the public women to the 
suburbs of the city, where the numerous strangers who resort to the 
capital were likewise quartered. Here, on the other hand, they are 
described as inhabiting the most frequented parts of the town, and es 
pecially the vicinity of the squares or bazars, as if the accommodation of 
the foreign merchants, in this respect also, was particularly consulted. 
Ces femmes (says the second of the Arabian travellers, after ex 
plaining the manner in which they were registered and licensed by the 
officers of government) " marchent les soirs habiilees d estoffes (silks) de 
diverses couleurs, et elles ne portent point de voiles. Elles s abandon- 
nent a tous les estrangers nouvellement arrives dans le pafe, lors qu ils 


Travels of Marco Polo 

and are perfect in the arts of blandishment and dalliance, 
which they accompany with expressions adapted to every 
description of person, insomuch that strangers who have once 
tasted of their charms, remain in a state of fascination, and 
become so enchanted by their meretricious arts, that they can 
never divest themselves of the impression. Thus intoxicated 
with sensual pleasures, when they return to their homes they 
report that they have been in Kin-sai, or the celestial city, and 
pant for the time when they may be enabled to revisit paradise. 
In other streets are the dwellings of the physicians and the 
astrologers, who also give instructions in reading and writing, 
as well as in many other arts. They have apartments also 
amongst those which surround the market-squares. On 
opposite sides of each of these squares there are two large 
edifices, where officers appointed by the grand khan are 
stationed, to take immediate cognisance of any differences 
that may happen to arise between the foreign merchants, or 
amongst the inhabitants of the place. It is their duty like 
wise to see that the guards upon the several bridges in their 
respective vicinities (of whom mention shall be made here 
after) are duly placed, and in cases of neglect, to punish the 
delinquents at their discretion. 1 

On each side of the principal street, already mentioned as 
extending from one end of the city to the other, there are 
houses and mansions of great size, with their gardens, and near 
to these, the dwellings of the artisans, who work in shops, at 
their several trades ; and at all hours you see such multitudes 
of people passing and repassing, on their various avocations, 
that the providing food in sufficiency for their maintenance 
might be deemed an impossibility; 2 but other ideas will be 
formed when it is observed that, on every market-day, the 
squares are crowded with tradespeople, who cover the whole 
space with the articles brought by carts and boats, for all of 
which they find a sale. By instancing the single article of 

aiment la desbauche. Les Chinois les font venir chez eux, et elles n en 
sortent que le matin. Louons Dieu, de ce qu il nous a exemptez de sem- 
blables infamies." Anc. Relat. p. 57. 

1 In the account given by De Guignes of the several ranks of civil 
mandarins or magistrates (kouan), he mentions le nan-hay, chef de 
police, et ses assesseurs ou lieutenants de quartiers. 7 The officers spoken 
of in the text were probably of this latter class. 

2 " It was difficult," says Staunton, to pass along the streets, on 
account of the vast concourse of people not assembled merely to see the 
strangers, or on any other public occasion, but each individual going 
about his own concerns." P. 439. 

The Inhabitants of Kin-sai 297 

pepper, some notion may be formed of the whole quantity of 
provisions, meat, wine, groceries, and the like, required for the 
consumption of the inhabitants of Kin-sai ; and of this, Marco 
Polo learned from an officer employed in the grand khan s 
customs, the daily amount was forty-three loads, each load 
being two hundred and forty-three pounds. 1 

4. The inhabitants of the city are idolaters, and they use 
paper money as currency. The men as well as the women have 
fair complexions, and are handsome. The greater part of 
them are always clothed in silk, in consequence of the vast 
quantity of that material produced in the territory of Kin-sai, 
exclusively of what the merchants import from other pro 
vinces. 2 Amongst the handicraft trades exercised in the 
place, there are twelve considered to be superior to the rest, 
as being more generally useful; for each of which there are a 
thousand workshops, and each shop furnishes employment 
for ten, fifteen, or twenty workmen, and in a few instances as 
many as forty, under their respective masters. The opulent 
principals in these manufactories do not labour with their own 
hands, but, on the contrary, assume airs of gentility and affect 
parade. Their wives equally abstain from work. They have 
much beauty, as has been remarked, and are brought up witb 
delicate and languid habits. 3 The costliness of their dresses, 

1 As our author professes to have obtained his information on this 
head from an officer of the customs, it follows that the quantity of pepper 
stated in the text was that of the importation (which alone could come 
under his cognisance), and not the quantity consumed in the city; with 
which, however, it was not unlikely to be confounded in the mind of the 
former. The daily entry being stated at 10,449 Iks., the annual quantity 
would be 3,813,885 Ibs., or (at the customary rate of 16 cwt. to the ton, 
in this article) about 2,130 tons. This may be thought large, but in a 
paper drawn up by Mr. F. Pigou, and published in Dalrymple s Oriental 
Repertory (vol. ii. p. 305), it is asserted that " the usual import, at all the 
trading ports of China, is about 40,000 peculs, or, at 133 Ibs. to the pecul, 
about 3,000 tons. Les Hollandois et ies Anglois," says De Guignes, 
speaking of the modern commerce of the Chinese, " ont vendu 1,465,053 
livres pesant de ppiyre, 46,371 livres de girofle, et 8,979 livres de muscade. 
Cette quantite d epiceries, si Ton considere la population de la Chine, est 
plus qu insuffisante, et n est rien en raison de ce que 1 empire devroit con- 
summer." (Tom. iii. p. 304.) In regard to the inadequacy of this 
importation it should be observed, that it is not upon the European 
trade alone the Chinese depend for their supplies of pepper. Their junks 
frequent many of the eastern islands, and at the port of Borneo Proper, in 
particular, annually take on board large cargoes of that article. 

3 " The flowered and embroidered satins, and other branches in the 
manufacture of silk, every part of which is done by women, occupy," 
says Staunton, vast numbers of them in Han-choo-foo. Most of the 
men were gaily dressed; and appeared to be in comfortable circum 
stances." Embassy, vol. ii. p. 439. 

3 The softness of feature, delicacy of shape, and languid habits of the 

2 9 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

in silks and jewellery, can scarcely be imagined. Although 
the laws of their ancient kings ordained that each citizen should 
exercise the profession of his father, yet they were allowed, 
when they acquired wealth, to discontinue the manual labour, 
provided they kept up the establishment, and employed per 
sons to work at their paternal trades. 1 Their houses are well 
built and richly adorned with carved work. So much do they 
delight in ornaments of this kind, in paintings, and fancy 
buildings, that the sums they lavish on such objects are enor 
mous. The natural disposition of the native inhabitants of 
Kin-sai is pacific, and by the example of their former kings, 
who were themselves unwarlike, they have been accustomed 
to habits of tranquillity. The management of arms is un 
known to them, nor do they keep any in their houses. 2 Con 
tentious broils are never heard among them. 3 They conduct 
their mercantile and manufacturing concerns with perfect 
candour and probity. 4 They are friendly towards each other, 

Chinese women of superior rank, may be observed in their paintings. 
" Though the ladies," says Staunton, " reckon corpulence a beauty in a 
man, they consider it as a palpable blemish in their own sex, and aim at 
preserving a slimness and delicacy of shape." (P. 440.) The practice 
of reducing the size and impeding the use of their feet, by early bandaging, 
is not adverted to by our author, unless he may be thought to have had 
it in view when he employed the phrase " allevate morbidamente." In 
respect to this and some other instances of extraordinary peculiarities, 
(such as the growth of the finger-nails to the length of two or three inches, 
and the preserving them in cases,) he may have been doubtful of gaining 
credit, or apprehensive of being exposed to ridicule, should he relate them 
as facts. It may also admit of question whether such fashions did 
actually prevail at that period. 

1 If this hereditary exercise of professions was anciently a custom 
amongst the Chinese, as it is with the people of India, it must be allowed 
that the traces of it are not apparent in modern times. 

2 The unwarlike disposition and habits of the Chinese are generally 
known; yet in the defence of their towns they have on many occasions 
shown the highest degree of patriotic and desperate resolution; nor 
would the Mungals have effected the subjugation of the country, if the 
people had not been betrayed by their superior officers. 

3 The exterior deportment of these people is grave and placid, but 
their temper is naturally irascible and vindictive, and the infrequency 
of broils is chiefly to be attributed to a rigorous police. 

4 To this character for probity it may be thought that the Chinese 
traders of the present day have little claim, as all our accounts of theii 
manners abound with stories of the ingenious frauds practised at Can 
ton upon the less cunning Europeans; but these apply chiefly to the 
lower class of dealers, who, perhaps, if they could be heard in their own 
defence, might justify their knavery upon the principle of retaliation. 
In the long-continued intercourse that has subsisted between the agents 
of the European companies and the more eminent of the Chinese mer 
chants, whatever injustice the former may have experienced from the 
effects of court intrigue, complaints on the ground of commercial unfair 
ness have been extremely rare, and on the contrary their transactions 
have been marked with the most perfect good faith and mutual confidence. 

Character of the People of Kin-sai 299 

and persons who inhabit the same street, both men and women, 
from the mere circumstance of neighbourhood, appear like one 
family. In their domestic manners they are free from jealousy 
or suspicion of their wives, to whom great respect is shown, and 
any man would be accounted infamous who should presume 
to use indecent expressions to a married woman. To strangers 
also, who visit their city in the way of commerce, they give 
proofs of cordiality, inviting them freely to their houses, show 
ing them hospitable attention, and furnishing them with the 
best advice and assistance in their mercantile transactions. 
On the other hand, they dislike the sight of soldiery, not 
excepting the guards of the grand khan, as they preserve the 
recollection that by them they were deprived of the govern 
ment of their native kings and rulers. 

5. On the borders of the lake are many handsome and 
spacious edifices belonging to men of rank and great magis 
trates. There are likewise many idol temples, with their 
monasteries, occupied by a number of monks, who perform 
the service of the idols. 1 Near the central part are two islands, 
upon each of which stands a superb building, with an incredible 
number of apartments and separate pavilions. When the 
inhabitants of the city have occasion to celebrate a wedding, 
or to give a sumptuous entertainment, they resort to one of 
these islands, where they find ready for their purpose every 
article that can be required, such as vessels, napkins, table- 
linen, and the like, which are provided and kept there at the 
common expense of the citizens, by whom also the buildings 
were erected. It may happen that at one time there are a 
hundred parties assembled there, at wedding or other feasts, 
all of whom, notwithstanding, are accommodated with separate 
rooms or pavilions, so judiciously arranged that they do not 
interfere with or incommode each other. In addition to this, 
there are upon the lake a great number of pleasure vessels or 
barges, calculated for holding ten, fifteen, to twenty persons, 
being from fifteen to twenty paces in length, with a wide and 

1 " The lake," says Staunton, * formed a beautiful sheet of water, 
about three or four miles in diameter, and surrounded, to the north, 
east, and south, by an amphitheatre of mountains, between the base of 
which and the margin of the lake, the narrow slip of level ground was 
laid out in a pleasing style suitable to the situation. It was ornamented 
with houses and gardens of mandarins, as well as a palace belonging to 
the emperor, together with temples, monasteries for the hoshaung or 
priests of Fo, and a number of light and fanciful stone bridges that are 
thrown across the arms of the lake. . . . Upon the summit also were 
erected pagodas, one of which attracted particular attention." P. 444. 

300 Travels of Marco Polo 

flat flooring, and not liable to heel to either side in passing 
through the water. Such persons as take delight in the amuse 
ment, and mean to enjoy it, either in the company of their 
women or that of their male companions, engage one of these 
barges, which are always kept in the nicest order, with proper 
seats and tables, together with every other kind of furniture 
necessary for giving an entertainment. The cabins have a 
flat roof or upper deck, where the boatmen take their place, and 
by means of long poles, which they thrust to the bottom of 
the lake (not more than one or two fathoms in depth), they 
shove the barges along, until they reach the intended spot. 
These cabins are painted within-side of various colours and 
with a variety of figures; all parts of the vessel are likewise 
adorned with painting. 1 There are windows on each side, 
which may either be kept shut, or opened, to give an oppor 
tunity to the company, as they sit at table, of looking out in 
every direction and feasting their eyes on the variety and 
beauty of the scenes as they pass them. And truly the gratifi 
cation afforded in this manner, upon the water, exceeds any 
that can be derived from the amusements on the land; for as 
the lake extends the whole length of the city, on one side, you 
have a view, as you stand in the boat, at a certain distance 
from the shore, of all its grandeur and beauty, its palaces, 
temples, convents, and gardens, with trees of the largest size 
growing down to the water s edge, whilst at the same time you 
enjoy the sight of other boats of the same description, con 
tinually passing you, filled in like manner with parties in 
pursuit of amusement. In fact, the inhabitants of this place, 
as soon as the labours of the day have ceased, or their mercan 
tile transactions are closed, think of nothing else than of pass 
ing the remaining hours in parties of pleasure, with their wives 
or their mistresses, either in these barges, or about the city in 
carriages, of which it will here be proper to give some account, 
as constituting one of the amusements of these people. 

It must be observed, in the first place, that the streets of 

1 " Nayires," says P. Martini, " qu on pourroit appeller avec raison 
des palais dores, parce qu ils sont peints de diverses couleurs, et que 
tout y brille du plus fin et du meilleur or: de sorte que c est la ou la 
magnificence et la pompe des festins, des spectacles, et des jeux eclatent 
tous les jours. Ces Chinois de Hang-cheu, qui sont autant d esclaves de 
la volupte, y trouvent en abondance tout ce qu ils peuvent souhaiter." 
(P. 141.) " Vast numbers of barges," says Barrow, speaking of the 
same lake, " were sailing to and fro, all gaily decorated with paint and 
gilding and streaming colours; the parties within them apparently alJ 
in pursuit of pleasure." P. 524. 

The Streets of Kin-sai 301 

Kin-sai are all paved with stones and bricks, and so likewise 
are all the principal roads extending from thence through the 
province of Manji, by means of which passengers can travel 
to every part without soiling their feet; but as the couriers of 
his majesty, who go on horseback with great speed, cannot 
make use of the pavement, a part of the road, on one side, is on 
their account left unpaved. The main street of the city, of 
which we have before spoken, as leading from one extremity 
to the other, is paved with stone and brick to the width of ten 
paces on each side, the intermediate part being filled up with 
small gravel, and provided with arched drains for carrying off 
the rain-water that falls, into the neighbouring canals, so that 
it remains always dry. On this gravel it is that the carriages 
are continually passing and repassing. They are of a long 
shape, covered at top, have curtains and cushions of silk, and 
are capable of holding six persons. Both men and women who 
feel disposed to take their pleasure, are in the daily practice of 
hiring them for that purpose, and accordingly at every hour 
you may see vast numbers of them driven along the middle 
part of the street. 1 Some of them proceed to visit certain gar 
dens, where the company are introduced, by those who have 
the management of the place, to shady recesses contrived by 
the gardeners for that purpose; and here the men indulge 
themselves all day in the society of their women, returning 
home, when it becomes late, in the manner they came. 

6. It is the custom of the people of Kin-sai, upon the birth 
of a child, for the parents to make a note, immediately, of the 
day, hour, and minute at which the delivery took place. They 
then inquire of an astrologer under what sign or aspect of the 
heavens the child was born; and his answer is likewise com 
mitted carefully to writing. When therefore he is grown up, 
and is about to engage in any mercantile adventure, voyage, 
or treaty of marriage, this document is carried to the astrologer, 
who, having examined it, and weighed all the circumstances, 

1 The carriages which stand for hire in the streets of Pekin are of a 
smaller size than these described by our author, but in other respects 
the construction is the same. See plate 41, of those annexed to M. De 
Guignes work, where it will be observed that the carriages nearly re 
semble what we term in England a tilted cart. As the habits of the 
ancient Chinese capital were much more luxurious than those of Pekin 
under the Tartar dominion, at any period, we may conclude that the 
vehicles of the former were fitted up with more attention to ease and 
convenience, as well as with more splendour, than the clumsy machines 
above described. Staunton, indeed, speaks of " cushions stuffed with 
cotton, and covered with silk, to sit upon," in the waggons of Hang- 
cheu-fu. P. 447- 

302 Travels of Marco Polo 

pronounces certain oracular words, in which these people, who 
sometimes find them justified by the event, place great con 
fidence. Of these astrologers, or rather magicians, great num 
bers are to be met with in every market-place, and no marriage 
is ever celebrated until an opinion has been pronounced upon 
it by one of that profession. 

It is also their custom, upon the death of any great and rich 
personage, to observe the following ceremonies. The relations, 
male and female, clothe themselves in coarse dresses, and 
accompany the body to the place appointed for burning it. 
The procession is likewise attended by performers on various 
musical instruments, which are sounded as it moves along, and 
prayers to their idols are chanted in a loud voice. When arrived 
at the spot, they throw into the flame many pieces of cotton- 
paper, upon which are painted representations of male and 
female servants, horses, camels, silk wrought with gold, as well 
as of gold and silver money. This is done, in consequence of 
their belief that the deceased will possess in the other world all 
these conveniences, the former in their natural state of flesh 
and bones, together with the money and the silks. As soon as 
the pile has been consumed, they sound all the instruments of 
music at the same time, producing a loud and long-continued 
noise; and they imagine that by these ceremonies their idols 
are induced to receive the soul of the man whose corpse has 
been reduced to ashes, in order to its being regenerated in the 
other world, and entering again into life. 

7. In every street of this city there are stone buildings or 
towers, to which, in case of a fire breaking out in any quarter 
(an accident by no means unusual, as the houses are mostly 
constructed of wood), the inhabitants may remove their effects 
for security. By a regulation which his majesty has estab 
lished, there is a guard of ten watchmen stationed, under 
cover, upon all the principal bridges, of whom five do duty by 
day and five by night. Each of these guard-rooms is provided 
with a sonorous wooden instrument as well as one of metal, 
together with a clepsydra (horiuolo), by means of which latter 
the hours of the day and night are ascertained. 1 As soon as 
the first hour of the night is expired, one of the watchmen gives 
a single stroke upon the wooden instrument, and also upon the 
metal gong (bacino), which announces to the people of the 
neighbouring streets that it is the first hour. At the expira 
tion of the second, two strokes are given; and so on progres- 

1 This clepsydra, or water- clock, is noticed by more modern travellers. 

Precautions against Fires 303 

sively, increasing the number of strokes as the hours advance. 1 
The guard is not allowed to sleep, and must be always on the 
alert. In the morning, as soon as the sun begins to appear, a 
single stroke is again struck, as in the evening, and so onwards 
from hour to hour. Some of these watchmen patrol the streets, 
to observe whether any person has a light or fire burning after 
the hour appointed for extinguishing them. Upon making the 
discovery, they affix a mark to the door, and in the morning 
the owner of the house is taken before the magistrates, by 
whom, if he cannot